Tyondai Braxton - Central Market

A wild, untamed ride, but one that is ultimately worth it.

‘Central Market’

comes at the listener more as a multi-instrumental symphonic arrangement and less a Battles approximating solo project from Tyondai Braxton, even though there are familiar elements of orchestral mayhem that also permeates the sound of his acclaimed other band. There is an abundance of musical ideas threaded throughout ‘Central Market’, enough to make the listener’s head spin, but the unrestrained sounds coalesce often enough to maintain a consistent melodic theme amidst the maelstrom of music produced by Braxton and his cohorts (The 50-piece Wordless Music Ensemble and The Young New York City Ensemble both contribute to the organized musical chaos). It’s a lot to take in at first, and certainly is tough for the listener to get their head around upon initial listens, but there is little question that Braxton has an ambition and a vision that far outpaces most musicians going these days, and many of those lofty aspirations are realized on this grand, experimental tour de force.

‘Opening Bell’ appropriately starts things off, with a jaunty piano riff growing to blend within a fuzzed-out bass line, and swirling symphonics that seem to materialize out of the ether, which serve to lend the song a surrealistic circus-like feel. The pounding drums of John Stanier are nowhere to be found on this record (which seems to keep Battles songs anchored in time), leaving these songs untethered and turbulent, and also free to roam the stratosphere of sounds that Braxton is often reaching for with these tightly wound, riotous arrangements. ‘Uffe’s Woodshop’ is a dynamic, surging beast of a song, with enough radical time changes to make one nauseous, if the sounds themselves weren’t so spirited and strung together so tautly. Plus, it’s the shortest song on the record, and seems to be over just when you finally have a chance to figure out what direction it’s heading in musically.

‘The Duck And The Butcher’ conveys a jovial theme, both through it’s title and the buoyant music generated by the band. One can imagine this song playing over a cartoonish barnyard scene featuring a desperate farmhand trying in vain to capture an elusive duck in order to sell it to his meat vendor in the city. The song really is that evocative. The literal and figurative centerpiece to ‘Central Market’, Braxton’s first solo record in seven years, is the sprawling majesty of ‘Plantinum Rows’, a ten and a half minute sonic sprint towards a fanciful finish line completely of Braxton’s own devising. It has a real Hitchcockian coda that only adds to the tension and suspense of the song, and really ties this adventurous album together well. ‘Unfurling’ gives the listener a bit of a rest after the tonal roller coaster of ‘Platinum Rows’, and sounds as if Braxton and his contingent of noise makers are trying to directly communicate with whales and dolphins, at least the ones that would be interested in this style of experimental music.

‘J. City’ is as close to a Battles-style rock sound that ‘Central Market’ gets, and under less gifted and dexterous hands (Braxton was a Hertford School Of Music Composition student), this track could sound enervating and anemic. But there is enough of an interesting, atonal guitar sound threaded throughout the piece to keep the listeners interest, and the dark sensibilities of the song keep it from floating too far adrift into the prog rock pool. That cataclysmic moodiness continues into the downbeat album closer ‘Dead Strings’, which has a fatalistic feel to it that is only reinforced by it’s lethal title and mercurial, manic sound. It’s a stormy, fitting end to an album that stretches deliriously all over the musical map, as influenced by the beat-heavy frenzy of Aphex Twin as by Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Song Of The Nightingale’. Under Braxton’s studied and talented hand, these songs are able to soar unfettered by either expectations or ideals, instead forming a sonic amalgamation of what exists inside of Braxton’s creative mind. ‘Central Market’ is, in the end, a wild, untamed ride, but one that is ultimately worth it, if only to see where the extremely disciplined but wholly disheveled sound takes you.

Tags: Tyondai Braxton, Reviews, Album Reviews

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