Tyondai Braxton. Photo by Dusdin Condren.
Nick Bollinger mulls over a multi-media art project from Battles founder Tyondai Braxton.
Before he founded the band Battles, Tyondai Braxton had studied composition and begun to be acknowledged as a significant experimental composer. Battles put him at the centre of a movement that came to be known as math-rock. And maybe you could apply that title to parts of his latest solo project as well; yet it could equally be heard as simply a return to his core business.
In 2013 he was commissioned by New York’s Guggenheim Museum to create a collaborative, multi-media piece with Uffe Surland Van Tam, the Danish architect who he has worked with more than once since leaving Battles in 2010. Part installation, part instrumental performance, the work involved Braxton and four other musicians, each seated cross-legged upon one of five glowing oval pods, designed by Van Tam.
It’s worth seeing pictures of these; Braxton and his group could be the musical advance party from some caravan of intergalactic travellers. But the music on this CD might have told you that anyway. There are busy kinetic pieces with glitchy electronic beats woven into dense polyrhythms. And there are sparser, more impressionistic passages, with Braxton playing thick dissonant clusters on a modular synthesiser, which bend and warp through sonic space. Perhaps Tyondai Braxton’s Hive 1 really does need to be experienced with its visuals for full effect. But if what is on this little silver disc is only the tip of an iceberg, then beneath it remains one of the bolder imaginations in modern art music.
Songs played: Boids, Scout 1, Galavea, Amlochley