words & photos: Sarah Rix @sarahrix
“… as his sound and overall visual branding aesthetic would suggest, Scott Hansen is not one to half-ass things.”
Tycho’s Scott Hansen makes music that he wants to listen to. You can see it when he performs, a smile on his face as he plays the role of omniscient wizard of electronic sounds from behind his keyboard setup. Usually, it’s blissful instrumentals with his three-piece touring accompaniment (Zac Brown on bass/guitar; Rory O’Connor on drums; Billy Kim on bass/guitar/keys) placing each note into an ambitious, evolving soundtrack. Now, though, and thanks to fifth album Weather, Tycho’s enlisted the help of a vocalist – bringing Saint Sinner (Hannah Cottrell) into the fold to further diversify his portfolio of sound.
Opening the night was Japanese Wallpaper, the Melbourne-based dream pop project of Gab Strum. It’s been a while since we’ve seen him and his three-piece backing band on stage, but when one of your favourite bands taps you to open their show it seems you have good reason to come out of your hiatus. The set featured new offerings, including just-dropped single “Imaginary Friends” with its 90s pop sensibilities, as well as tried-and-tested tracks like 2014’s “Breath In” – a synth line befitting an 80s high school drama weaving in and out.
“Are you still with us?” Strum asked the slowly-filling Melbourne crowd after a particularly slow song. It probably wasn’t the right time for the question as much of the crowd seemed lost in a daze. Thankfully an upbeat Pixies-esque follow-up care of 2019’s “Fooling Around” did its due diligence to perk everyone back up – Japanese Wallpaper ending it off on a high.
Tycho’s repertoire is an impressive one – a collection of meticulously crafted and produced sounds. It’d be easy to expect a solo-producer to step out on stage to try and replicate them live, though as gigs go, those tend to be a pretty big let down. Thankfully, and as his sound and overall visual branding aesthetic would suggest, Scott Hansen is not one to half-ass things.
The set started much aligned with the chillwave artist’s older offerings: intertwined instrumentals creating the sort of ambiance you’d hope for on a sun setting, traffic-free coastal drive.
It opened with “A Walk”, the first song on 2011 sophomore record Dive, and followed through to fifth song “Montana”, off of 2014’s Awake.
Watching both Hansen and his band work together is hypnotic, the four-piece coming together to layer on their lines. It’s all at the mercy of it working together, each member of the band distinctive in their sound and what they do, but bound to the overall cohesion. One line drops off the melody, another weaves in and fills its place. It would seem mathematical if it weren’t so authentic and human.
Hansen and his cohorts were in good spirits, too – telling the audience that this Splendour in the Grass sideshow was part of their fourth trip to Australia and third show in Melbourne. In their first trip to the city, they had driven by The Forum and remarked how nice it might be to one day get to play the iconic venue. Throughout the night, Hansen made a point to tell the crowd it was a dream come true.
The biggest change over the years – and the major talking point for the just-released Weather, the three-year follow-up to 2016’s Epoch – is the integration of vocalist Saint Sinner (Hannah Cottrell). She appeared on stage for sixth song “Japan”, at ease and asserting herself as the natural progression for Tycho’s music. Similarly blissful was “No Stress”, Cottrell’s delivery the equivalent of a reassuring hug.
While just the third show with the new tour, Cottrell and Weather, it’s all coming together as you’d expect a Tycho show to. The visuals (including a full video wall), lighting and music are all carefully constructed. By the time Hansen and company ended their set with “Awake”, you half-expected a director to step out and yell “CUT!” Beautiful and reassuring, with everything in its place.