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Tycho – Riding the wave of ‘down-tempo electro’

Trends come and go, fashion, art, music, you name it. They emerge with periods of great creativity and stand to define certain eras entirely. For the current global music scene, a trend I feel that is really coming into a period of maturity is down-tempo, ‘ambient electro’.  Certain pioneers of the genre lead the stylistic approach, such as the UK’s Bonobo and San Francisco’s Tycho, both have which have been producing quality down-tempo vibes for over 12 years.

Scott Hansen leads Tycho, a native of the bay area, in a group that has become a power house of American electronic ambient music. Mellow in it’s nature, Tycho’s style takes influence from traditional analog sound while maintaining a very current tone in line with the progression of other forms of electronic music. In live form the group combines live guitar, bass, drums, keys, synths and visuals effects to give an all-sense encompassing explosion of sound and texture.

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Tycho’s first studio album arrived in 2004 with the release of ‘Sunrise Projector’. The album was received with average reviews, then to be re-released on Merck Records in 2006 under the new title ‘Past is Prologue’.

I first became aware of Tycho, as many of their fans did, after the release of ‘Dive’ in 2011 on the label Ghostly International. A musical masterpiece from start to finish, Dive takes the listener on a aural experience, warming up from the mellow tones of opening track ‘A Walk’ through to ‘Daydream’, past the mesmerising ‘Ascension’ and back down to earth on the closing tones of ‘Elergy’.

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What I love about this record is the progression it takes from start to finish. A real sense of early calm developing into substantial electro throughout. The artwork evoking this very same essence that every track stands for.

Since this brilliant breakout album Scott Hansen and his group have gone on to release ‘Awake’ (2014) and ‘Epoch‘ (2016) – both as with ‘Dive’, released on Ghostly International and both to excellent critical review.

Tycho performing live takes ambient/down tempo electro to another level. Alongside live musicians, Hansen takes centre stage amongst a maze of different sounding synths, keys and electronically produced percussive effect pads. Recently I watched Tycho’s full live performance on KEXP and was blown away by the accuracy to the studio recording, “I’ve gotta see this show for myself”.Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 21.06.01.png

Tycho have set out in 2017 with a packed agenda of live shows. The band have 21 dates confirmed between April and July alone in North America and Europe and I’m lucky enough to have tickets to their Trinity Centre Bristol show on June 8th 2017.

With ‘Epoch’ still fresh out of the press I can only assume the new material will provide the backbone to their 2017 live experience. Much like ‘Dive‘ and ‘Awake‘ before it, ‘Epoch’ embodies the dizzying soundscape masterpiece that Hansen sets out to hook in the listener. So why is ambient down tempo electro so big? It doesn’t seem to fit any specific genre, sitting on the bench between electronic, rock, ambient, trance, and psychedelia, giving a sound that’s come to define a once niche style of music. I think it comes to define the modern music creator. With increased technology and global influence, more and more sub genres are plastered together to create these textural sounds. Combining audible layers of experimentation and musical fusion gives you results we hear in Tycho.

It’s now. Tycho are riding the wave of down tempo electro. Don’t miss it. You’ll enjoy it.

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Uncovering Prague’s Hidden Techno Scene.

March 2017 saw my first trip to Prague, a weekend fuelled by a desire to check out off-the-radar music scenes, sample the very best in Eastern European beer, and find some cool underground venues.

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We’d heard rumours that beneath the renaissance exterior lay a darker side to this city, out of the public eye, in a comparison some people put together with a ’90’s Berlin’ vibe. This was exactly what I wanted to tap into. Having been to Berlin a few years ago I’d experienced a small amount of continental European techno – and with a flavour in my mind I wanted to uncover Prague’s very own techno scene for myself.

Finding the right venue and music meant staying away from the mainstream parts of town. Clubs like ‘Roxy’, which just days earlier had played host to Dixon, sounded impressive but weren’t screaming out as something new and exciting to jump into. I’d heard about a venue near the outside of town which played some cool nights and decided to track it down.

‘Meet Factory’……Yeah it’s a lovely name eh? Hearing that you’d probably think it was spelt with an ‘a’ and was an ex-abattoir or something equally as pleasant. So this was the name of the venue we found, playing host to a night called “Harmony with Hydrangea, Milena Kriegs & Inner Shapes”. An all girl DJ event where the page boasted a whole 22 people attending with the tagline “Don’t be an asshole. Don’t bring an asshole, assholes are going to be brought out.” Intriguing. We headed out to Prague’s Smíchov quarter to check it out for ourselves.

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Our view of Meet Factory from across the railway tracks.

 

The place wasn’t hard to find, in a unique space squeezed between a motorway and an active railway (to my friend’s distaste “Sam we are not crossing that railway”) – Luckily there was a bridge. And for 250 Czech Koruna, we were in.

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We were instantly greeted by techno/dubby/ambient producer from Poland, Milena Kriegs. The sound was instantly recognisable with a quintessential techno bpm. Kriegs has previously released tracks on Portugues label Reaktivate and Spanish Semantica Records, so we knew we were in for a good show. The lighting was incredible and as the dark vibes rumbled through the night we watched Milena’s set, before taking a break to return to the sound of French newcomer Hydrangea.

Hydrangea’s sound screams that industrial techno loop which as the volume is increased, only serves to ramp up it’s intensity. The ‘Annulled Music’ imprint has released Hydrangea’s debut album, called ‘Dawn Lights’, a real voyage of discovery for your senses to gel with, or in our case get blown away by. The night ticked on, and Hydrangea’s sound began to envelop the room.

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My view of Hydrangea circa 4:12am 

Hydrangea played until the early hours and not once did the intensity give way, the interior architecture of the place (cinema seats stuck to the ceiling with freaky mannequins seated upside down) only adding to the overall sensory overload.

It was a great night. And one that will not be forgotten. Speaking with a few French guys outside the front, we were apparently “extremely lucky” to have stumbled upon this kind of night in a town where techno is “rare”. I can’t say I know Prague well, but I suspect that our experience in Meet Factory was only the tip of the ice burg for this city’s vibrant underground music scene.

Until next time Prague.

 

 

 

YOTTO – The Boss of the bassy synth

The deep house scene is littered with DJs and producers, from around the world – all putting their on spin and personality on the tracks they produce. As house has developed from the early Detroit and Chicago days, to the 90’s acid scene and onto the modern deep house sound we know and love today, for me there are certain producers and labels that stand out from the crowd.

I first became aware of Yotto a few years ago, hearing his 2015 track “Azzurro”, on a house compilation, becoming instantly hooked by his impressive catchy loops and build ups leading into fast paced drops. His debut ‘Azzurro/Memento‘ EP was praised massively from the the likes of Pete Tong and Dancing Astronaut, and with the support of the big guns, Yotto ramped it up, leading to a series of successful EPs and releases throughout the course of 2016.

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Yotto, (AKA Otto Yliperttula) signed to London based label Anjunadeep, with the release of his first EP. Since then Yotto has grown and developed so quickly in a short period of time, perfecting his sound and performing live in venues around Europe, North America and Asia. 2016 really has been the year for him – 22 dates over the 3 continents, and 2017 shows no sign of slowing down. With the announcement of Anjunadeep UK label tour just recently, fans have been treated to a stellar line up from some of the label’s biggest hitting producers. Yotto is set to perform in 4 of the 6 UK dates in April alongside Dom Donnelly, Kidnap Kid, Lane 8, Luttrell, Way Out West, James Grant & Jody Wisternoff, closing at Brixton’s very own Phonox on April 29th.

 

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Yotto’s been on my radar throughout 2016, as a producer that really caught my attention. With electronic music in general, and the sheer number out there these days, making music that differentiates itself from competition is a tricky affair. Yotto’s ability to create drama in his beats while still developing incredible progression within the track itself is what really interests me. I hear a track by Yotto and I know it’s Yotto. Not many producers have such a style that resonates with me in this way, and this is what makes him particularly special.

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His track ‘Firewalk’ dropped on November 11th 2016, a single with both extended and original versions. For me the track is a culmination of a year’s worth of both experience and personal development. Developing and becoming the sound that I think will set to define him as a musician in the future. As the title of this post would suggest, Yotto’s bass synths strike a real chord with me. ‘Firewalk’ builds and builds with the aid of echoed vocal and hard hitting percussion, into drops that are ultimately fuelled by these incredible progressive Yotto-esque ‘bassy synths’. The track was hailed by Annie Mac as one to tune into on Radio 1 and I totally see why – though it’s only just surpassed 1/4 of a million Spotify streams I think it has the longevity to outlive everything that came before it. Only time will tell I guess.

Well, I’m looking forward to seeing this guy live in 2017 – and I think you should be too.

 

 

 

Bonobo – Migration – Set to Kick Off 2017 In Style

Simon Green, AKA Bonobo, has been gracing our ears with beautifully constructed electronic, down tempo-vibes for the last 17 years. A musical progression of 5 studio albums has culminated in the producer becoming a well respected pioneer for his genre, selling out venues on tours, globally.

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From the early days of ‘Animal Magic’ back in 2000, to the incredible ‘The North Borders’ in 2013, Green’s evolution through texture and sound has been an audible journey for his fans. The 3 year break since his last release has been met with some unrest from loyal followers, which has seen outright support for the producer to get back in the creative zone.

In November 2016 graffiti spotted in London’s East end hinted at a return for Bonobo. New artwork with the classic ‘Bonobo’ logo spray painted to a wall indicated that a new album was on the cards, and true to all of our hopes, a sixth studio album was announced for the start of 2017 shortly after.

On November 3rd, the first single ‘Kerala’ was released on Ninja Tune. The first single Green has put out for 3 years came with huge anticipation, and as yet has lived up to most fans’ hope. Continuing in classic Bonobo style, Kerala takes off where The North Borders left, very much a unique sound we have all come to love and appreciate. Green’s use of unconventional electronic chime and percussion with indistinctive echoed vocal combine to maintain the aura of mystery that surrounds a lot of his sound.

Past the heights of albums past such as ‘Black Sands’ and ‘Days To Come’  many of us thought that after 13 years, ‘The Northern Borders’ would be the pinnacle of his productive capacity, but this is not the end of Simon Green, I don’t think we’ve even got started. With Kerala surpassing 2 million streams on Spotify and latest single ‘Break Apart’  teasing more at Migration’s flavour to come, we can all bet that January will serve us a treat when the full album is released.