Artist of the Week: Tyondai Braxton

Central Market, Tyondai Braxton’s solo debut for Warp Records, is a horse of a different color.

Comprised of seven songs (though ‘suites’ or ‘movements’ seems more apropos) the album is incredibly animated in sound, much like the zippy scores heard on Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes, though far more eclectic. Braxton recorded Central Market with the aid of  New York’s Wordless Music Orchestra, and though it’s only about 42 minutes in length, it seems more like a full hour. There is just too much going on.

Each listen seems to yield illustrations of a new layer, like one of those sketch books clothing designers use. You know, the kind where each sheet has one set of details on it, stacked over many others with their own set of specific details, and all over the same root image? They used one in Iron Man, to show how Tony Stark came up with the schematics for his first suit.

Central Market
is like that, making it one of those rare albums that will never get old.  Hearing the classically comedic ‘boing’ sound effect in a genre-bending flume ride like “The Duck and the Butcher” is wild, as is the beautifully intricate guitar work that follows. Also the kazoo, not typically an instrument blessed with the spotlight, is given the keys to the car on Central Market, and who would have thought the little party favor that looks like a pipe could sound so playful and serious at the same time?

Bumping the record at a house party and expecting cartoon-ish antics, however, might be a stretch. Though it’s an audiophile’s dream come true, Central Market, which came out on September 15th, will fly over the heads of most people. This is trailblazing, bushwhacking work, and as such, it’s hard to imagine folk putting forth the significant listening effort required. As amazing as the epic 10 minute “Platinum Rows” is, it takes a few listens to grasp, and when albums like The Yolks or Free Energy are lying about, it’s easy to be lazy.

And that’s no insult to those bands. Tyondai is simply on another level of learned music, just like his legendary father Anthony Braxton. But while Dad works with flutes, clarinets and contrabass saxophones, the son prefers the full ensemble sound of his ‘orchestrated loops,’ and so much vocal manipulation that the end product is impossible to peg as coming from a living throat.

In other words, Tyondai isn’t writing songs so much as he is composing music, and that is ace. It’s been a great year for it so far, with Sufjan Stevens dropping The BQE and his collaboration with Osso for Run Rabbit Run (though I think Central Market is far more evolutionary).

There are no tour dates yet, which is unfortunate, but we can always hope. Performing a monument like Central Market would be a massive undertaking; a true once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one worth buying a plane ticket to see. Until that happens though, soak up Central Market all week on BTR, and don’t forget, there is a new Battles record to look forward to in 2010. We might not be able to hear Central Market performed any time soon, but another tour from Battles seems likely, and perhaps Tyondai will drop a solo song or two.

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– Matt Lehtola


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