Saturday, September 15, 2012

IDM upstart Tycho recalls shades of Boards of Canada at Exit/In

It's only 20 minutes after nine and this already seems like a bad idea. I've got to be up early in the morning, and there are also a few personal things I'm brooding over. I grab a Yuengling, my college beverage of choice, but even that isn't doing much to lift me out of my funk. I had made my way to the Exit/In after trying to decide between this show and the Ty Segall gig next week. Although I wouldn't have gotten much sleep either way, I'm rapidly thinking that Mr. Segall would have been a better bad idea.

I'm here to see Scott Hansen, better known as the electronic musician Tycho, who happens to be one of my crowning Bandcamp discoveries. I didn't care for the opener, The Album Leaf. The brain child of Jimmy LaVelle, they mixed violins, trumpets, acoustic guitars and electronics into a mix that strayed the line between post rock, IDM and New Age. But it never fully committed to any of those styles. It floated between these nether regions and didn't have much direction. I suppose you might appreciate them for carving out a specific niche, but I was bored.

Scott Hansen, aka Tycho, drops the grooves.

Tycho did much to lift my spirits. It's impossible to avoid comparisons with Boards of Canada, but Hansen stands out because of the exuberance in his compositions. Being that he's also a graphic designer, his shows feature a strong audiovisual element. The sense of childhood nostalgia certainly bears similarity to Boards of Canada and Black Moth Super Rainbow, but I also find his artwork and general aesthetic similar to Steven Wilson. Not musically, to be sure, but the grainy images of a foresty mountainside and kids rowing a canoe being projected onto the screen behind the band seems not dissimilar to something that might be found inside Porcupine Tree art booklets.

Bassist Brad Lee injects varied textures into The Album Leaf's sound.
Occasionally, Hansen will provide subdued guitar flourishes that provides subtle coloring to the music. The backing band provides a much needed kick. Zac Brown's bass provides the meat of the beat; while Rory O'Connor shows why drummers in electronic music are so highly underrated. His dizzying patterns that crisscrossed his snare and hi hat never failed to impress.

But there's something about Tycho in a live environment that doesn't quite deliver. Simply put, his music isn't very danceable. Given its heavy IDM influence it should come as no surprise that this music is more for the head than the hips. In that regard, his set is certainly enjoyable. Everything sounds good, and let's face it, for every Tycho you'll see there are about 100 Skrillex impersonators. But if you do want to dance even a little bit, it's going to be pretty tough to do it to the jams Hansen spins.

Tycho provided an enjoyable evening, but I might have to think twice about live IDM for anyone short of Aphex Twin. Not sure if it was worth the missed sleep. No matter though. I've got three shows I'm going to within the next week, all of which should be nothing short of phenomenal. Sleep? Who needs it? I'm ready to put on my game face.

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