Posted on Sep 4th 2009 01:13 am
Warp Records 2009
07 Tracks. 42mins47secs
Best known as the guitarist, multi-instrumentist and vocalist of experimental super group Battles and as the son of celebrated jazz composer and musician Anthony Braxton, Tyondai Braxton first started to get noticed in the mid-nineties with electrifying live guitar improvisations. His first album, History That Has No Effect, attempted to concentrate the energy and drive of his live incarnation. Since, he has featured on a split LP with hardcore/noise outfit Parts & Labor, has also featured on a number of records, by Prefuse 73 notably, and has been seen performing live alongside people as diverse as Jim O’Rourke, Thurston Moore, Black Dice or TV On The Radio.
With Central Market, his second solo album, Tyondai Braxton has taken a major leap forward, combining the angular rock of Battles and of his own experiments, with electronics and vast orchestral élans. The album is said to have been in part inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s 1917 symphonic piece Song Of The Nightingale, itself a piece derived from his opera The Nightingale, which he completed three years earlier, although Braxton also names influences ranging from John Adams to Brian Eno and Swans, contained within the record.
Rich in textures and vivid tones, which continuously coagulate upon complex melodic themes and sequences, Central Market can be found somewhere between progressive abstract rock and modern composition. Partly recorded with the Young New York City Ensemble and the Wordless Music Orchestra, for which Braxton wrote extensive orchestrations, this album is incredibly daring and ambitious. As soon as the Opening Bell rings, the listener is plunged into a kaleidoscopic sound world which seems to answer to no rules other than its own to suit the singularity of its every nook and cranny. A refreshingly chirpy and light composition, served by big pastoral sweeps and led in turn by a recurring bubbly piano phrase sat on top of an electronic beat and an enduring line whistled repeatedly over a much fuller orchestral compound, it adopts a slightly darker angle in its latter part as Braxton follows a series of melodic tangents. Later, on the epic piece resistance of Central Market, Platinum Rows, he develops the orchestral part much further and creates a miniature symphony where movements alternate between flamboyant sections and much more subtle and introvert moments, but his use on unconventional components, especially a kazoo, which becomes at one point omnipresent, and electronics, places the composition fully on contemporary grounds.
The contrast between Braxton’s gripping guitar work and the orchestral opulence is never greater than on Uffe’s Woodshop and The Duck And The Butcher, each demonstrating a number of possible combinations of these primary elements, at times symbiotic, at others voluntarily disjointed and at odd, but it is the guitar alone that radiates through J. City later on, perhaps the only piece to bear a clear affiliation with Braxton’s debut, and the only one to feature prominent vocals. The electro-acoustic scope of Unfurling combines heavily processed guitars and increasingly dense electronic and orchestral textures. A similar mix fuels Dead Strings, the record’s closing piece, but the proportions are almost entirely reversed here as the guitars are pushed deep down in the mix for the most part, while strings and electronics are tightly woven into a thick canvas which, when confronted with a purer rock slant toward the middle point, appears to disintegrate entirely, only to resurface later on before collapsing once again in a storm of distortion and decay.
Central Market is everything but an easy record, its challenging aspects often pushing the listener deep into pretty uncharted territories, but Tyondai Braxton’s disregard for conventional forms and confident direction bind these pieces together. This album is extremely ambitious, even for a man with as prestigious a pedigree as his, and the fact that the result is a complete success is more than just an indication of the extent of the man’s talent.
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