Live Note: Tycho @ Fonda Theatre, October 6, 2016
Photo: Tycho at 2013 Lightning in a Bottle Festival, but he looked very similar at the Fonda last night.
Tycho, the ambient/rock instrumental brainchild of Scott Hansen, played the first of a pair of “pop-up” (e.g., short notice) shows at the Fonda Theatre Thursday evening. The Tycho crowd, sold out here tonight, leans young and diverse, no doubt accruing fans from his EDM association, while not strictly slotting into that genre. Performing as a four-piece – Hansen, synths & guitars; Rory O’Connor, drums; Zac Brown, bass & guitar; Billy Kim, bass & synths—with a sparse stage setup, the show marked the occasion of the surprise drop of Epoch, his fourth full-length album a week prior.
The hour-plus set successfully showcased Epoch, its natural progression of his downtempo uplifting instrumentals that ride muted guitar riffs atop warm analog synth pads and arpeggios and build and break before locking into tight disco grooves, though they resist riding easy 4-on-the-floor for too long (which tends to make for some awkward start/stop dancing; bros, you know who you are). Live, more tunes than might be expected hew closer to driving rock than ambient electronic on the spectrum–a couple could be Pell Mell cuts, one or two would make decent Foals tunes, just add vocals. It’s stuff that could be easily veer into generic instrumental background listening in the wrong hands, but the Tycho sound imprint and ear for clever arrangement is distinct, if deceptively simple. Actually, it’s this simplicity – which also extends into spare, geometric artwork (Hansen, a graphic designer by trade) and the track titles (“Awake,” “A Walk,” “Horizon”, typical titles) –that invites the listener in and allows space to project one’s own feeling and meaning into the audio and visuals.