Most press photos of bands and musicians are deeply mundane things. Sadly, capturing the imagination is rarely considered a priority. Tim Navis’ images of Scott Hansen (aka electronic craftsman Tycho, aka graphic designer ISO50), however, taken in conjunction with last October’s album Dive, raise the standard, depicting Hansen as a lonely, enigmatic character who realizes (and relishes) how small he is against glorious outdoor spaces. One photo, seen here, pins him in silhouette, standing in front of a relatively somber sunset on a desert that initially looks to be a beach. Another finds him sitting Indian-style against an endless, foreboding swath of desert. Using a desert or a beach as a backdrop aren’t exactly innovative ideas in and of themselves, but the Tycho images do a particularly smart job of providing enough personality that one has an idea of the sonic aesthetic at play. It’s all about setting a purposefully desolate scene.
“That was kind of the culmination of a pretty dark year,” Hansen says. “I’m very specific about how every visual element that ever represents me is done.”
The San Francisco-based Hansen regards visuals as part and parcel of his process. “I’ve always seen my music as this soundtrack to some sort of animation or film,” he says. He created Dive’s faded, psychedelic cover after finishing the music, and the hypnotic image encapsulates the album well.
The record itself is alluring and visually evocative. Its synths can sound either wide-open or perfectly small, enjoying gravity-defying crescendos and tiny movements with equal gusto. Dive wants to be a grand, sweeping postcard of a detail-pocked, humanity-free vista currently sprawled out in Hansen’s mind, and it succeeds admirably.
One thing Dive doesn’t do is flesh out its creator’s character. As an interviewee, Hansen isn’t particularly revealing, either. He is, however, open to discussing what he used to make it – analog synths from the ’70s and ’80s, guitar, bass and a computer – and why he creates electronic music in the first place. Hansen grew up listening to classic rock and metal but only started making music by the time he was into drum and bass, French house and dance music in college.
“I enjoy the technical side of things and engineering challenges. I was doing computer science at the time, so it seemed more accessible to me, whereas my friends who play guitar or whatever – that seemed very foreign and inaccessible,” Hansen says. In 2002, he debuted the Tycho name with the EP The Science of Patterns.
Lately, Tycho’s shows have utilized projections of color-treated footage plucked from the 1973 surf film Crystal Voyager and Jacques Cousteau’s Odyssey series. “With the visuals and the music, the key is to transport the listener and the viewer outside of wherever they are and put them into this other space for a little bit,” he says. While making Dive, he loosely storyboarded the record – “Some of the songs I would just say, ‘This is a person running’ or ‘This is a girl, but you can’t see her face’” – and he hopes to eventually create a fully animated narrative as an accompaniment.
Hansen describes Dive as “kind of like the epilogue to a chapter in my life as an artist and a person,” which is as much as we’re likely to get. “A lot of things didn’t allow me to finish it for a long time, and it leaned on me pretty heavily, so when it was over, it was finally like, ‘OK, that’s done, and it’s time to really move on.’”
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