Tycho create expansive, calming, borderline trance-inducing sounds, and devotees return to their favorite albums again and again when seeking a clear state of mind. But that’s not why they went to see the band at the Palace Theatre last night.
Playing in the background of our lives, secondary to whatever task may be at hand, Tycho’s repetitive, uncomplicated melodies can help us to create order and organization from the chaos we live in. Live, however, Tycho offers something much different from that mellow background listening experience.
For starters, Thursday’s show was intensely loud. Live, there was no hiding the fresh staccato textures of Zachary Brown and Billy Kim’s guitar and bass, evident especially in the performances of “Epoch,” and “Awake.” Drummer Rory O’Connor’s percussion was sharper-edged across the kit, especially as he met Brown’s opening Radiohead-like guitar snarls on “Division.” And the bass in the band’s rendition of “Horizon” was rib-rattling and organ-altering -- loud even by the band’s standards, apparently. “That’s the most intense bass I’ve ever heard in my life,” frontman and founder Scott Hansen remarked, a testament to the power harnessed by the Palace’s new sound system.
The Palace’s semi-deteriorating décor makes it a sweet setting for an electronic music concert, but the scale of the screen backdrop on stage was even more becoming on Tycho. A dual-career musician and graphic designer, Hansen has always flawlessly integrated a warm, nostalgia-rich, minimalist aesthetic into Tycho’s identity and stage production. The films, animations, and graphics he created for this tour were captivating without being distracting, varying thematically while unifying aesthetically, adding another layer of intensity and a visual loudness to the performance.
Continually seeking inspiration from open spaces and big skies, Hansen brings imagery from the natural world into his visuals, including the rising and setting of moons and suns, waves hitting rocks and shores, vast skies with various cloud phenomena, and manipulated footage of outdoor scenery (including upside-down rock formations eerily resembling mushroom clouds). Hansen’s wilderness scenes are not unlike those featured in the recent National Parks IMAX film in scale and drama. By the band’s final song, “Spectre,” we found ourselves disconcertingly upside-down, in a beautifully designed landscape, witnessing the dreadful specter of our current reality -- a fitting way to end any performance in 2017, really.
Another highlight from Thursday’s 90-minute, 17-song performance was Tycho’s mid-set performance of “See (Beacon Remix)” (from 2015’s Awake Remixes), for which Tycho brought out opening band Beacon’s vocalist Thomas Mullarney, whose smooth, haunting, R&B vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Rhye. As the only song of Tycho’s set to include live vocals, this song provided a timely pause from the instrumental arrangements, and its destitute line “You’re in everything I see/ Know I’ll never be” contextualized the mysterious woman who made several appearances among the warmly lit landscapes in Hansen’s visuals earlier in the set.
The crowd: Still largely uncertain where to find the bathrooms at the Palace.
Critic’s bias: Dear Readers, please remember to wear earplugs when you’re out at shows. Tinnitus is coming for us all! Do what you can to protect yourself!
Random notebook dump: Ghostly International label-mates Beacon opened the show with a shimmering 40-minute set of smooth, yet defiant trip-hop. Don’t miss “Marion,” the band’s forthcoming single, featuring a wicked hammered dulcimer.