Friday, April 25, 2014

Live Show Review: Tycho - 4/20/14

Date:  April 20, 2014
Venue:  9:30 Club, Washington, DC

I rarely attend good shows on Easter Sunday - apart from the choir at the occasional sugar-fueled church service (admittedly, it's been a while).  This past Sunday I checked out Tycho at the 9:30 Club.  It happened to be 4/20 as well - a day famously dedicated to a different kind of ritual sacrament.  Despite that apparent contradiction, Tycho's mix of pastel colored grooves and heady atmospherics seemed entirely appropriate.

Tycho (Joe Davancens, Rory O'Connor, Zac Brown, and Scott Hansen)
Tycho, real name Scott Hansen, is a San Francisco-based indie-electronica musician and graphic artist who previously worked solo but took on a full band for his latest album Awake.  I had just reviewed Awake and was excited to see how Hansen would perform his latest material with new bandmates Zac Brown and Joe Davancens alternating between guitar, bass, and synthesizer, and Rory O'Connor on drums.

If I had to sum up the show in one word, it'd be "bass."  Relentless, bowel quaking bass.  It might've been my close proximity to the subs at the foot of the stage but, as Davancens plucked the first bass notes for opener "Awake," the titanic low-end threatened to drown out the rest of the band.  However, after the initial concussive shock of sub-frequencies morphed into more of a tranquilizing ambient vibration, other sonic elements began to filter through - twinkling synthesizer, tremolo guitar, and percussion.

Tycho (Joe Davancens, Rory O'Connor, and Zac Brown)
O'Connor faithfully hammered out the simple kick-snare rhythms common to most of Tycho's music, but got to flex some serious chops on more challenging material like "Apogee" and "Spectre" from the newest LP Awake.  Most impressive was O'Connor's transcendent beat-for-beat take on "Past is Prologue," the set's lone inclusion from the album of the same name.  I had criticized Past is Prologue in my review of Awake, but forgot that the title track itself is an oddity in Tycho's repertoire - a brisk drum & bass roller featuring complex breakbeats.  O'Connor and the band absolutely nailed this one.    

Tycho (Joe Davancens and Rory O'Connor)
Apart from a couple technical flubs, one of which caused a minor delay as Hansen stopped the music to readjusted some knobs, Tycho delivered a fine set.  The band dependably recreated and enhanced choice cuts from their growing collection of hypnotic jams while projecting some striking visuals onscreen, no doubt curated by graphic artist Hansen himself  - panning slo-mo of crashing whitecaps, desert landscapes, surfers gliding atop ocean swells, and nude models draped in gauze shuffling seductively across sunset illuminated sand dunes.  No Easter candy to be had, but not a bad way to conclude a beautiful holiday weekend.

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