While his formative years were spent listening to everything from Yes to Photek, Scott Hansen didn’t get his hands on an actual guitar or drum machine until he left his native Sacramento for San Francisco in 1995. “Encountering this whole new world at 20 years old was a profound experience,” says Hansen, better known by his musical pseudonym Tycho and as the graphic artist ISO50. “At the time, I was just learning the processes of design and music; both felt very similar, and have flowed back and forth for me ever since.”
As seamless as his two creative outlets have been, nearly a decade passed before the release of Hansen’s first proper Tycho LP, Sunrise Projector (later expanded and reissued under the titlePast Is Prologue). And while three striking singles have emerged since then, the sum of all those sepia-toned parts is nowhere near the double-exposed soundscapes of Dive. The product of a prolonged break from IS050’s design work and blog, it pays tribute to Tycho’s prismatic past (the dense, guitar-guided turning points of “Daydream” and “Adrift”) but spends most of its time pointing to the project’s not-so-distant future.
That can mean any number of things, really, from the halcyon hooks and hopeful horizons of “A Walk” to the expansive, wildly expressive tone poetry of the title track, an eight-minute epic that unfolds like a compressed concept album. Or at the very least, a restless vision of prog-rock—one that’s been coated in neon colors and filtered through a thick piece of blotter paper. And then there’s “Elegy,” a spare curtain closer that pairs a vulnerable crescendo with a fitting bridge to future works.
And with that, Dive establishes its position as the most diverse musical statement of Hansen’s multi-medium career; the point where his skills as a performer finally catch up with his vaporized vision of a world that doesn’t belong to any particular time or place.
“Nostalgia is a common thread in my work,” says Hansen, “but this album wasn’t driven by that idea. I see these songs as artifacts from a future which might have more in common with our past than our present.”
The Album Leaf
The Album Leaf is the solo project of Jimmy LaValle, a San Diego-based songwriter who began recording solo material one year after forming the post-rock band Tristeza. Inspired by a number of genres -- classical, jazz, and post-rock among them -- LaValle constructed his own songs in a similarly eclectic manner, utilizing everything from ambient noise to field recordings to radio transmissions. An Orchestrated Rise to Fall introduced the resulting sound in 1999. An EP (In an Off White Room) preceded the release of LaValle's second full-length album, One Day I'll Be on Time, which was released by Tiger Style in March 2001. The Album Leaf's profile blossomed as a result of those recordings, and LaValle found himself opening shows for Sigur RÃ?Â?Ã?Â³s' first American tour that fall. By the time he began recording his third album, he'd also secured the services of Sigur RÃ?Â?Ã?Â³s' Iceland studios, along with the participation of several of that band's members. The resulting album, In a Safe Place, appeared on the Sub Pop label in June 2004.
The Seal Beach EP, originally issued in 2003 in Spain, appeared stateside in early 2005, and LaValle's next album, Into the Blue Again, followed in September 2006. The Album Leaf toured sporadically throughout the remainder of the decade, performing in multiple continents and opening for Devendra Banhart at the Hollywood Bowl in 2008. Two years later, LaValle returned with his fifth full-length album, A Chorus of Storytellers. ~ Mike DaRonco, All Music Guide