By Josh Herwitt //
It’s always inspiring when you see someone incorporate the skills they have developed over the years and apply them in new and different ways. For Scott Hansen, Tycho has been more than just a path to sonic exploration. While music remains at the forefront of Hansen’s vision, the project has served as a vehicle for his overall creative expression.
Before he became better known by his astronomical stage name, Hansen spent more than a decade working as a graphic designer, and his affinity for photography is no secret. For his photographic and design work, he operates under the moniker ISO50, and sometimes he’ll even include notes with his Instagram photos detailing the exact camera settings that were used (like in this one). The results — as you can see here, here and here, for instance — are incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring for any young photographer. And in many ways, the music Hansen writes is just as pretty.
But it’s also worth mentioning that Hansen designs all of the art (including the album covers) for Tycho, often using geometric shapes like circles to represent such natural wonders as the sun that in turn serve as metaphors for life and the connection to the human experience. The live show similarly plays off these reoccurring themes, with a large video screen set up behind Hansen and his bandmates to reveal footage of nature, surfing and other subject matter that’s pleasing to the eye. In fact, as Hansen recently explained in his ISO50 blog, “the imagery tells a story that the music can’t fully articulate, and vice versa.”
It’s rare to find a musician who’s talented enough to create all of the music and artwork on his own, let alone one who can get the two to perfectly coincide with each other. Hansen, though, has managed to do this better than most, and he continues along that path with Tycho’s fifth studio album Epoch, which he unexpectedly dropped less than two weeks ago with no formal announcement. The 11-track LP and third Tycho album originally released on Michigan/New York record label Ghostly International picks up right where 2014’s Awake left off, combining the group’s signature ambient-techno sound with more post-rock flourishes than we’ve heard previously. It hasn’t peaked quite as high on the Billboard 200 chart yet, but there’s still plenty of time for Epoch to make up more ground in the weeks and months ahead.
For as much as Epoch was a surprise, so were Tycho’s two most recent shows in LA last week. It was the first time Hansen and company had played The Fonda Theatre since the Awake tour back in 2014 (read our review here), and Thursday’s sellout, which was announced less than a week before the show, along with the subsequent need to add a second date the next night, made it clear that more than ever, Angelinos have a strong appetite for what Hansen is doing on both a musical and visual level. It helps, too, that KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley, who opened the shows at The Fonda with a DJ set, has helped expose Tycho to a broader audience, whether through the “Morning Becomes Eclectic” theme song or live, in-studio performances by the band. Even nowadays with an abundance of streaming sites, you can’t underestimate the power of radio in a city with a driving culture as large as LA’s. And truth be told, Tycho is some of the best music to drive to, especially when you’re surrounded by nature.
When it came time to take the stage, the four-piece comprised of Hansen (synthesizers, guitar, bass, visuals, programming), Zac Brown (bass, guitar), Rory O’Connor (drums) and Billy Kim (bass, keyboards, synthesizers) didn’t waste any time diving into some material from Epoch, opening a 75-minute set with the album’s lead single “Division”. However, what might have been just as surprising as the album and show announcements themselves was the fact that of the 15 songs they played last Thursday, only one-third came from the new LP — and none were performed during the encore. With three critically acclaimed full lengths to draw from, Hansen has continued to evolve the live show, pulling equally from Dive and Awake and still including a couple tracks from 2006’s Past Is Prologue in crafting a setlist that covers all the bases. I suppose I should lay off the baseball analogies when describing one of Tycho’s latest performances, but we are in the month of October and Hansen, after years of hard work and dedication, has been playing in the big leagues for long enough now.
Past Is Prologue