The Stoic Wax Museum of Electronic Dreamlands

Review of Tycho at 9:30 Club 4/20/14

written by Andrew Brown

To best describe the experience of listening to the San Francisco based band Tycho, there are two examples I find best apply. Tycho is the Monet of the electronic music scene. An impressionistic style of layering soft, emotive synthesizers overtop intricate, organic rhythm tracks define their sound. In psychology, there is a image-word association projection test, called the Rorschach Inkblot Test, where subjects look at ink blot paintings and associate how they feel about the images with words. Comparatively, Tycho’s sound, using sound-to-word association, brings up emotions of euphoria, contentment and calm. Their music is minimalistic, yet sonically expansive at the same time. Operating under the design moniker ISO50, Scott Hansen, the group’s keyboardist/founder, has stated in previous interviews that his design degree has greatly influenced the manner in which the music is created. Using the least amount of material to make to greatest impact possible. Tycho is a very highly recommended artist to dig into.


This past Sunday, April 20th, the four-piece bad took to D.C’s 9:30 Club. Touring to promote their newly released album “Awake”, this was my first time experiencing a performance of theirs live. As the band came on stage, the gigantic 9:30 projector screen was lit behind them with a rolling montage of emotionally suggestive visual ambiguities produced by Scott Hansen’s ISO50 team. A cinematic feature that synced perfectly with the mood set musically by the band. The night started off with the single off of their latest album, similarly titled “Awake”, followed by Awake’s fourth track “Dye”. Throughout the night, I found that the band achieved a higher level of sonic success while playing songs of their latest album. All of the songs played off of “Awake” sounded absolutely incredible. Before “Awake”, Scott Hansen had put out three other albums entitled “Dive”, “Sunrise Projector” and “The Science of Patterns”. Within each of these preceding albums, the bass lines are composed solely using electronic synthesizers. While playing songs off of earlier albums, especially a song entitled “Past is Prologue”, the sound quality of the bass suffered. Interrupting the intricate mosaic of notes that lay quite delicately over top, the melody in turn sounded a bit washed out. The reason for this disturbance may have come from the fact that the bass lines were not originally written for a live bass player or an improper sound check. In retrospect, it was an encouraging affirmation that the group is centered in a positive projection for growth towards the future with their new set up and sound. The quality of their latest album “Awake”, has a much larger sense of sonic maturity live. The most captivating sequence of the night was the encore which was comprised of Dive’s “A Walk” and Awake’s “Montana”.

The energy put out by the crowd this night was something different than I have ever experience. Personally, I have never been to a show where there were so many people who were just standing still! As a majority, the crowd reminded me of the stoic wax figurines of a wax museum. Throughout the show numerous patrons could be seen on their phones, completely separate from the present moment. In contrast, you could see the amount of passion that each band member put into the performance with their faces full of emotive expression. They put their full heart into every song that they played. At certain points, it almost felt like it was insulting to those around me that my elbows were wiggling so close to them and that my feet were dancing ever so rhythmically. As if I was the crazy one! Such a different feel than the improvisational jam band scene I mostly frequent. Maybe they were simply in awe.

I truly can’t wait to experience what Tycho is going to unfold this upcoming festival season. The change of scenery from inside of a club to the beautiful outdoors is going to make a significant difference in how the performance is received. This summer they will be playing at Counterpoint, Electric Forest, Outside Lands and Pygmalion. Since it seems like this band is growing in such rapid fashion, each successive show is going to be a memorable experience in their history. Tycho will be one of the more fascinating bands to follow in the years to come.

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