Robert Katz, Staff Writer
On Friday night, graphic designer-gone-electronic musician Scott Hansen, under his professional name, Tycho, played a sold-out show at the Troubadour. One of the first shows of his summer west coast tour to showcase his newest album, Dive, the performance presented Tycho’s ambient, dreamy soundscape as something more visceral and frenetic, while also emphasizing just how mesmerizing it can be.
Opening for the night was Chicago-based Mister Lies, whose minimalistic electronic tracks carried a very icy serenity, mixing in sampled vocals ranging from British masters Thom Yorke and David Bowie to less recognizable R&B flavors. The 19-year-old newcomer, born Nick Zanca, carried with him a very enthusiastic vibe, spastically dancing and throbbing like a caged chicken and jerking back and forth to every beat. However, the physical antics sometimes came off as overkill in light of the calm BPM and, in retrospect, was an unnecessary way to open for a performance that would extinguish whatever “club” spirit was being built up in the crowd.
The change in atmosphere at the venue was tangible as Hansen himself, along with live bassist Zac Brown and live drummer, Rory O’Connor, silently marched onto the stage in front of a projected image of Tycho’s braille logo and dove (excuse the pun) straight into “Daydream.” “Dove” would be the right word, though, as both the album and the show possessed a very enthralling, peaceful quality, like a journey through a clear ocean.
Fittingly, the ocean was a subject of one of many graphical animations, designed by Hansen himself, that backed the songs and supported their abstract beauty. The designs, most of which which were claimed to be making their debut at the Troubadour, combined such standard “calming” visual elements as people in full body suits on a snowy mountain, glaciers crumbling into oceans and a girl in a billowing white dress stepping in no particular direction through an endless desert and appearing thoughtful, all tied together through excellent fade-ins and fade-outs and peppered with gorgeous kaleidoscope effects and Tycho’s signature glares of light. While the show could have fared just as well without them, the vignettes added a bit of flair and more sensory complexity, along with reflecting Hansen’s nature as a master of the digital realm (as he responded to an audience member, “Shout out to graphic design!”).
More importantly, Tycho showed just as great a control over his music as a whole on Friday night, expertly weaving together his own guitar parts with the fiddling and twiddling of knobs and switches that comes with electronic territory. Instrumentals never overshadowed the synthetic melody, an often-encountered hazard of live performances and the entire band found equilibrium, although Brown could have afforded to experiment a bit with louder bass, as the group was already scratching the surface of rock.
The greatest support of such a claim came from O’Connor on drums, who proved to be an unexpected delight, channeling a nimble aggression that contrasted wildly with the other two performers and, at any moment, was prepared to simmer into calm cymbal-stroking. In fact, even O’Connor’s appearance, as he wore a plain gray sock hat and striped T-shirt, set him apart as a youthful spirit from the more rugged Brown and Hansen, and for all of his conflicting style, he seemed to become a crowd-favorite as a ripple of rebellion in a calm sea of sound.