(Originally written for relix.com1)
New York, NY
Let’s get one thing straight: “electronic” is far from a precise descriptor for any band, and Tycho is no exception. The term is a scattershot, essentially indicating that yes, this band uses a synthesizer. And in that sense, it’s not wrong— Tycho helmsman Scott Hansen operates amidst three of them onstage—but to leave it at that would not only turn a deaf ear to bassist Zac Brown (not that Zac Brown) and drummer Rory O’Connor (who played with a broken foot on Saturday), but it also says nothing about what Tycho actually sounds like.
Hansen doesn’t create the sort of tizzy-inducing block-rocking beats that have come to be associated with today’s electronic music. Instead, he prefers subtler sounds; washing calmative soundscapes over straightforward (if not sometimes predictable) rhythms. On Tycho’s latest release, Dive, what results are wisps of atmosphere that, as a whole, so effectively conjure the album art’s ethereally serene coastal scene that it’s no surprise Hansen doubles as a graphic designer.
Both of the aesthetic-centric projects were on display at Webster Hall on Saturday night. Portland, OR’s Onuinu opened with a breezy set that, perhaps with the exception of Tycho’s untitled bass-heavy second-encore, provided the high-water mark for rug-cutting. That’s not a knock; you just don’t boogie at a Tycho show like you would at the disco (maybe). Instead, the crowd waved and swayed in near lockstep with one another, apropos of the washed-out surf clips projected behind the band throughout the show. Among the highlights included Dive stand-out “A Walk,” which had Hansen taking up the guitar in addition to his triple-synth duties, and “Ascension,” a typically mellow cut invigorated by O’Connor’s drumming. A few songs even inspired some impromptu handclaps from the audience, which, considering just how down-tempo the show was overall, underscored their enthusiasm.
The entirety of the hour-and-a-half performance was well received—so much so that the largely taciturn Hansen took pause on two separate occasions during the set to thank what he called “the best audience we’ve ever played to.” Considering how modest and organic Hansen and his work came off—both his graphic design and so-called electronic music project, Tycho—and the near capacity house at Webster Hall on Saturday night, I was inclined to believe him.