It was a quiet Monday evening on King Street — the ambiance outside the Majestic Theatre was hardly indicative of an event within. Assorted millennials in skinny jeans and skate shoes sucked down cigarettes and avoided each others’ eyes, quietly milling in the muted red glow of the Majestic’s marquee.
Inside, a cacophony of conversation flooded the ornate concert hall. From twiggy teens in snapbacks to flannel-clad dads sipping canned microbrews, downtempo artist Tycho had drawn a strikingly stratified audience.
Looped drum-kits played in the aftermath of Beacon, a musical duo hailing from Brooklyn and Ghostly International label mates of Tycho, whose understated and visually-intriguing performance fostered energy among the audience for the upcoming act.
Sullen teens in faux-fur hoods and severe horn-rimmed glasses slouched on their smartphones in the balcony while a tidy and compact crowd of college-aged kids filled the dance floor. It’s the first Madison appearance for Tycho — fronted by Scott Hansen — whose organically-inspired and ethereal electronic style gained a substantial following with notable albums such as Dive, and his 2014 release, Awake.
As the house lights dropped and the background music withered away, a great cheer erupted from the audience. In the darkness, the slender silhouette of Tycho and three members of his live backing band slipped onstage, backlit bulbs glaring as the crew manned their musical battle stations.
As the group opened with “Adrift,” muted-tone, vintage film reels of Arctic expeditions and nature scenes perfectly visualized the auditory tone expressed by the rhythmic drum beat and otherworldly synthesizers of the track. The audience kept silent and still in tremendous appreciation of the nebulous, almost somber opening piece.
As Tycho continued, it became clear that a live performance by this ensemble brings a tremendous new energy to the music. It was more than just noise — Tycho and his companions projected an emotion; a crisp and intensely focused mood of tranquility that was reflected by the pacified audience.
While many musicians’ concert performances lack studio-quality finesse, Tycho’s performance didn’t ruin the signature downtempo tone of his work. Rather, the perfect unison of the group revealed the intense focus and artistic precision necessary to achieve such a manicured sound, producing such a distinct and transcendental sound from conventional instruments.
Tycho is known as ISO50 for his graphic design and photography portfolio, and this experience in artistic expression became brilliantly clear in the hypnotizing visual display, a psychedelic backdrop of natural scenes that synced perfectly with the tone and tempo of his tracks.
The opening chords of “L” drew cheers from the crowd as a driving and steady bass beat bloomed under an eerie, echoing melody that washed over the awestruck audience. Mirrored and filtered images of natural landscapes, mysterious women and expansive galaxies provide a stunning focal point to the crowd, who stood largely still save for impulsive head-bobbing with the rhythm.
By the end of his hour-long set, Tycho demonstrated remarkable prowess for artistic precision. He delivered an emotionally-engrossing and abstract aural experience that transcended traditional concert norms, taking on an element of performance art through visual displays and a carefully organized set list.
Channeling sounds from musicians such as Ulrich Schnauss and Boards of Canada, Tycho’s nostalgic yet wholly contemporary chill-wave style represented a driving and captivating achievement. Visually and acoustically mesmerizing, the singular sound produced by the superbly synchronized foursome was an entrancing and surreal experience that fascinated the appreciative audience.
This post was updated March 25, 2015