Tycho, a graphic designer and chillwave producer from San Francisco, has been making some waves outside of the States recently. Having already won the hearts and minds of many American chilled out dudes, and having also appeared on Deadmau5’s YouTube channel getting coffee from Tim Hortons, it seems like this obscure Californian visual artist is making it big.
I’ve followed this guy’s music for a couple of years now. I love both his first album, Dive, a bedroom production, and his second album, Awake, a full-band experience. It seemed strange to me then, that my life would intersect with Tycho at a church made into a community centre in a suburb of Bristol. After trying to find a pub near the venue, and eventually stumbling upon an Anglo-Jamaican gaff called The Armoury Tavern, I enjoyed a cider backdropped by incongruous reggae. Fully musically discombobulated, I was ready for whatever Tycho wanted to throw at me.
It’s a good thing too, because if I had not begun with an open mind, I might not have fully appreciated Christopher Willits. Another Bay Area chill dude, Willits describes himself as an electro-acoustic multimedia artist. In person, that boils down to a relaxing montage of beautifully made nature shots projected onto the back wall while Willits layers reverb-y atmospheric guitar sounds and vocal hints. Whilst not a musical revolution, it was overall, an impressive multimedia experience.
Tycho entered the stage with little ego, and continued his whole performance that way. He interacted with the audience - but not like a rock band’s frontman would. Instead, he stayed glued to his various keyboards and the visuals he developed for the show were his conversation with the audience. Supplementing a tight and gorgeous combo of live drums, instruments, and synths were breathtaking evolving visuals. The motif of the sun setting over the water faded back in between each flawlessly executed song.
The overall impression from Tycho’s set was one of waves of calm joy. Maybe it was the bittersweet tone of Scott Hansen’s lead synth, or maybe it was the gently ebbing images that backdropped the entire performance. Whatever it was, the whole performance left me feeling simply happier. How can you come away from a gig feeling so elated and not chalk it up as a huge success?