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Ghostly International Show: Christopher Willits, Beacon and Tycho

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Ghostly International’s Official Logo, Online Image, Twitter.com 3 October 2014
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Even as someone more than waist-deep in the trenleverhes of the music industry, it’s always gratifying when an experience manages to strike my emotions in the same way as that of a detached fan on the sidelines – someone who isn’t concerned over the gears, the vernacular and the game play of this business that happens to make an art for which the world universally pines.

 
That’s what happened with the show put on by three acts from independent label, Ghostly International, who performed together at New York City’s Terminal 5 this past Wednesday, 1 October 2014. Based in Michigan, USA, Ghostly International specializes in working with electronic artists and is also a brand affiliated with the creation of other artistically inspired items. The show featured sets by these artists: Christopher WillitsBeacon and Tycho.
 
Despite what the better part of the music loving world might presume, music journalists don’t know everything about every band at every moment – sometimes even falling behind (read: not being first) to become aware of the more “hot and trend worthy” moments that appear out of nowhere and on the turn of a dime or tip of a hat. This is as good as a back story as is needed with regard to my relationship with each of these groups. Tycho was the headliner for last night’s show and also happened to be the artist with whom I had the most previous familiarity. Still, even that is not saying anything along the lines of a “first fan level” of knowledge or devotion.
 
Awake,” the new release by Tycho that this show, and its underlying tour, are promoting, is the first album I have acquired by the group (initially solo act) of visual designer Scott Hansen. That record was intriguing enough to prompt the purchase of concert tickets and the subsequent investigation of Beacon and Christopher Willits, both of whom I became a fan upon some casual listening and steady exploration. My reasons for becoming a fan of all three of these acts are almost mirror reasons for why I write here now to say that the showing of all at once was a very positive and enjoyable experience. Putting things in short summation:
 
These three acts and their combined stylistic similarities/complementary qualities, create a collectively powerful musical experience that would be significantly lessened with any one element isolated from the others.

Each artist/group is unique on their own and has their own flavor so, if you wanted to get into one particular artist and describe them to a friend later on, you could do that without confusion. At the same time, the artists are each analogous enough to fit quite snugly in a “Recommended If You Like” / Pandora Radio style arrangement. Furthermore, the way
the three acts’ sounds and intensity levels also fit into each other, like musical nesting dolls, with each getting more expansive than the one before it, the flow of the show felt simultaneously like a fluid linear progression and uniform blending.

Describing their sets in brief:

 

Tycho-2B14


Christopher Willits:
 A sonically gentle, instrumental opener, (no pun intended for new album, “Opening”) Willits has an affinity for applying enough similarity that his tracks are a bit hard to distinguish when they are played live. Nevertheless, in that same vein, the songs run together so well that they clearly function better as a whole unit, which, when paired with a film, makes perfect sense. Use of atypical, off-beat time signatures is an atypical way in an of itself, to account for musical difference. This choice might not be as detectable or appreciated by the average listener but it is nonetheless worthy of a nod for subtle cleverness.


Tycho-2B13


Beacon: 
Continuation of instrumental styling but with the inclusion of vocals that somewhat matched the fluidity, punch or whichever feeling they were aiming to evoke with their striking melodies and rhythms. The increase in intensity came via things like more percussion, louder volume, faster tempos and more complex rhythms.

 

Tycho: A combination of both the prior two sets. Tycho’s sing-able melodies, (to be noted later) hooks and absence of lyrics align with Willits’s style but the band also employs more intricate arrangements, louder volume and traditional, conventionally-catchy rhythm patterns that lean toward the feel presented by Beacon.

 

Add in Tycho’s own original melodies/individual electronic effects and the culminating result is like a perfect frosting topping the most sensibly baked cake. Those involved in the programming decisions deserve just as much of a high five. Lineup is important to a concert, as track order is to an album.

 
The inclusion of large screen projected visuals in each band’s set –of everything from cascading nature scenes to kaleidoscopic abstract visuals– as well as Tycho’s specific use of expanding, multi-colored laser lights, made the show half of the entertainment that it was. That said, you were never worrying someone would come from behind with a sharp elbow to try and gain better sight; neither of the projections nor whomever was on stage. That kind of energy wasn’t resonating in the audience and there was enough to interact with that, even had I not managed to have my spot right against the front barricade, I don’t imagine my night would have been so much less enjoyable. The audio and the visual were capable of being appreciated from anywhere and no one behaved in such a way as to indicate they felt like they got the significantly shorter end of the stick. 

Lastly, it would be a crime to leave out mention of the third sensory element in this live performance — one especially apparent during Beacon’s set — which is that of extreme bass and heavy use of the nine sub-woofers lining the front of the Terminal 5 stage. I will say for that particular aspect of the concert, having a front spot was quite different than being anywhere else, as I truly felt each downbeat against my whole body. However, it was balanced and EQ’ed well enough (A double thumbs up to the individual running sound for the show!) that, although extreme, the bass vibrations didn’t go so far as to start encroaching upon the listening experience in a negative way. 



*       *       *
 
 
Logistically speaking, this show is a reminder of how much Terminal 5 runs a tight ship and how everything aside from the venue’s actual location, (near what I like to call, “the edge of the world” at 11th Avenue) is something to which I look forward when going there. Some events in NYC feel like a chore once you get to the end of said event, because you know it is late and the venue is coincidentally far from where you have to go, and, even with a show schedule, you have no idea when things will conceivably end. 

This isn’t how Terminal 5 does things. Doors opened at 7PM when they said they would open, not 15-20 minutes after, the show itself started at 8PM on the dot, sets were changed in a relatively silent and fast fashion; with the kind of urgency akin to that of a race car pit crew. It probably helped this time because the equipment used and instruments coming and going hardly varied between sets. A computer rolled in here, a mixer rolled out there, a few guitars swapped out from song to song but that’s simply another bonus of this grouping, contributing to a seamless evening of listening.
 
The only downside of all this efficiency came when Tycho’s intended double encore got cut short by one track because of Terminal 5’s strictly imposed curfew. However, Tycho’s choice to end their individual set, the whole show and the whole U.S. tour with “Awake’s” strong title track was a smart decision musically and psychologically, as was evident by the fact that there were some heard loudly belting out the track’s nine note synth motif on the way out of the venue after the show ended.
 
This was a concert (and these are artists) that would be good for:

 

  • First time (and or) solo show goers
  • For people whose intention is to partake from the in-venue bar while listening (No fear of spilt alcohol!)
  • For those whom being physically well balanced in intensely crowded venues has never been a strong point. 

 

The overall immersion of the audience into melodies that undulated like waves, the presentation of smoothly blended, complementary colors (Who would expect less from a designer turned musician?) and the physical manifestation of the sound that allowed the music to further permeate and be stamped upon my memory — both mental and muscle — was enough to leave me at the end of the night, with all my music journalism lingo and industry knowledge, simply thinking, 

 

 

“When it’s good, it’s good and this was just all around damn good.”

 

You can learn more about Ghostly International and all the artists on their label at their official website, find them on Twitter @Ghostly or visit them on Facebook.

If you want to get a more actualized idea of the great musical cohesion I’ve described here, just give a listen to these tracks back to back!



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