(originally published at Heave Media)
Chicago's first heavy snow of the season fell almost on cue for Tycho and Active Child. Fittingly, these two acts are heavy on melancholy, yet warm to the soul. Pat Grossi's choirboy falsetto sent chills down my spine, but Tycho juxtaposed with projected visuals of slow-motion surfers and summer sunsets. The mood in Lincoln Hall was of a subdued enjoyment, likely due to the dread of winter that awaited outside. But the music inside was marvelous, certainly worth the sell-out.
I believe that while Active Child has already achieved a respectable repertoire, the best is still yet to come from Grossi. Only a couple EPs and one full-length exist for him. He's a rookie. A rookie with a jaw-dropping vocal range, skills on the harp, and an ear for the cinematic. He mentioned halfway through his set that he was playing a new harp that he bought for himself for Christmas, likely with the bonus he earned opening for M83 on their 2011 national tour. You could hear the M83 influence in his set, and except for some major flubs on the last song, it was a heavenly and enchanting hour of music.
Ghostly International is quickly becoming my favorite record label due to their ongoing output of electronic music's finest. Perhaps their best release in 2011 was Tycho's Dive, it certainly was one of my favorites of the year. Dive is minimal and atmospheric, but full of melody and sonic charm. But as with most IDM artists, the fear is that the live show will just be a guy pressing buttons and twisting knobs for an hour. Not so for Tycho. Scott Hansen brought along a drummer and bassist, both of whom were astonishingly tight. I had a hard time differentiating between the live instruments and the samples. Every chillwave, IDM, and post-dubstep artist should be required to see a Tycho show before they even think about playing a live set.
Hansen's fingers effortlessly drifted from keyboards to laptop, guitar to synths; and the occasional brushing aside of his bangs. He was looking a little bit emo with that reverse mullet cut. And I felt a little bit emo listening to his heart-piercing ambience too, almost like hearing Album Leaf for the first time. But, the emotional intelligence of Tycho seems very high. It's richly layered with electronic and organic sounds, creating a delightfully paradoxical aesthetic. It works whether you're laying on a California beach, or driving through a Chicago snowstorm. It made my slippery drive home almost blissful.