You can’t talk about ambient music these days without talking about Tycho. As one of the most successful artists in the genre this decade, mastermind Scott Hansen has gained a huge following for music that seems to both take people away to a carefree alternate universe and also seems to keep people glued to their desks in concentration. Green and company once again teamed up with a full band’s worth of musicians to release his fourth album Epoch in December 2016, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album in the process. And it’s been some since he’s played a proper venue in DC - the last time he was here, he performed in the courtyard of the Hirshhorn Museum on a cool fall night in 2015. This time, it was a cool spring night in a much larger space: the six-thousand person capacity Echostage.
Although ambient music is about as un-Echostage as it gets in the electronic music world, the band put together an energetic set that ran for nearly two hours.Evoking the languid sprawl of a lazy summer, rolling bass lines and guitars collided with the electric crackle of vintage synths with only the drummer - DC-native Rory O’Connor, also known as Nitemoves - holding it all together. His unique timing and energy on songs like new album cut “Horizon” and older track “Spectre” ensured that people wouldn’t stop moving to the beat. Just as important as the music were the visuals that Hansen, a former graphic designer, had a hand in crafting as well. The updated show brought an array of video accompaniments to each song that went beyond the shape-based videos on his last tour. Hansen’s emphasis on warm colors, the beach, and a woman, repeated in multiple songs, further drove home the feeling of an endless summer, and bright, colorful, and frenetically-changing landscapes were a perfect fit for some of the faster-paced tracks like “See.” And the lasers they had on hand didn’t hurt, either. Although ambient music isn’t an intuitive match for the expected excitement of a live show, Tycho manages to overcome with great visuals and impeccable execution from all involved.
Opening for Tycho was drummer and Washington, DC native Nitemoves. His DJ set focused mainly on ambient electronic music as well, though he wasn’t afraid to throw in some disco and light drum and bass sounds as the set came to a close. His latest solo release is the October 2016 album “Don’t Ask!”, currently available on Bandcamp.