|Cover art for new Tycho LP "Epoch"|
|If you like Tycho, chances are you can probably afford pour-over coffee|
Like Google's product sites or the Android operating system, the impressive cover art for both Awake and the just released Epoch have an appealing design language. They constitute collateral worthy of the Silicon Valley juggernauts, of adorning the website of a new feature in a vanguard social network or serving as the icon for a marquee app. Unsurprisingly, Scott Hansen, who helms the Tycho project, is an accomplished Bay Area designer and graphic artist. I've seen the cover art from Awake on t-shirts worn by tech workers walking to lunch in Pioneer Square, largely indistinguishable from the rest of their wardrobe comprising shirts featuring the products and companies they build. According to The Verge, Scott now brings his designer talents to bear solely for his music, ensuring elegant packaging and consistency of design across media.
Despite the above, I take no particular issue with Tycho, Scott Hansen, or his studio band, but rather, with the ineffable notion that the Silicon Valley set have incorporated his music into the infinite feedback loop of celebration and validation that has come to distinguish our contemporary tech economy. His brand of instrumental, organic electronic music, in its pleasantness and saccharine excesses, just happens to sound like what the tech industry wants to hear, i.e., a soundtrack to harmonize with its incrementalist vision of utopia by way of elegant automating technologies. Theirs is a world view that claims comprehensiveness yet is pointedly myopic - the benefits of the automation they build predominantly vest in the privileged among us who can afford the underlying enabling technologies (smartphones, home automation appliances, etc.). Their efforts do very little to tackle serious domestic and global issues: affordable housing, extreme poverty, climate change, and treatment of disease (other than fraudulently). As such, they largely fail to engage with contemporary society in the ways in which we could really use them (i.e., to bring technology to bear in solving our biggest problems). It isn't that the accomplishments of Google, Facebook, etc. aren't worth celebrating, but rather, that they believe so fully in the narrative of their own altruism that they are constantly celebrating and validating themselves.
Tycho is the perfect music for such a mindset -- it's the music of maximum complacency in an era of technology that doesn't dream big enough. We need to be much less complacent, much less invested in validation, and much more focused on the broader social landscape in which technology can be an enabler for positive change.