Photos by Ben Montemayor. View full gallery below.
There’s something about Tycho frontman Scott Hansen’s intense, almost academic concentration onstage that transforms even a crowded Hollywood club into a performance art space for meditative inspiration. The band opened Thursday night’s show at The Fonda with Division, a simmering tune that showcases the darker edge of Tycho’s newly released album, Epoch. They dressed in monochrome and kept movement around the stage to a minimum so as not to distract visually from the breathtaking show projected on a giant screen behind them.
Like their studio work, Tycho’s live performance hinges on a delicate dance between sound and image. Hansen worked as a designer in San Francisco before deciding to make music full time and creates all of Tycho’s artwork himself under the moniker ISO50. On Thursday night, he took us on a journey through sparkling waves and undulating canyons, but also through a visual history of the band’s evocative aesthetic. Songs from Epoch played to the clean, bold minimalism Hansen adopted for that album, but as the band moved through their catalogue, the images on screen shifted to reflect the dusky geometry of Awake and the sun-soaked vibrance of Dive. (Read a great post about the origins and meaning behind Tycho’s artwork on the ISO50 blog.)
As a viewer, I found myself constantly fighting the urge to close my eyes and allow Hansen’s meticulously layered arrangements to sit in my brain without distraction because I didn’t want to tear my attention from the screen. There are few visual shows that demand quite so much attention, or feel as intimately tied to the music.
On a practical note, this is not the show to come to without earplugs. Tycho plays meditative music, but they play it loud. The floor-quaking bass and punchy guitar made for a transformational experience that resonated through my very bones, but my eardrums paid for it later.
The setlist was well-rounded, with highlights from the new album (Epoch and Receiver were especially lovely) as well as crowd favorites from Awake and Dive. They closed out with Awake and the show ended to cacophonous cheers, prompting Hansen to quietly but sincerely call Los Angeles his favorite city to play.
On the Reddit AMA preceding the release of Dive, Hansen described his drive to create as an overwhelming desire to translate a vision, saying, “I’ve always felt hindered by my own abilities and resources. So I guess it’s like an ongoing challenge, to overcome yourself and try to make the images and sounds in your head real.” With three acclaimed albums under their belt and a live mix that remarkably translates both the dreamy layers of Hansen’s IDM and the coveted organic energy of live instrumentation, the Epoch tour sees Tycho at their most cohesive and stunning.
Full gallery: Tycho @ The Fonda // October 6, 2016 (Photo credit: Ben Montemayor)
Listen to Receiver, my personal favorite from the new album, below: