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Tyondai Braxton
Central Market Matt Cox , September 29th, 2009 11:31

Despite a solo career spanning over a decade, Tyondai Braxton is probably still best known as the chap from Battles with the wild hair and the winning way with beat boxing. Following the band's success at bringing math-rock to the dance floor with the glam stomp of 'Atlas', Braxton is back with his first solo material in six years. It's clear from the outset that Central Market is very different in its scope and aims, with 'Opening Bell' bounding onto the stage as if a gleeful Steve Reich had been unleashed in a fairground. The result has none of minimalism's coldness, coming across not so much glacial as glacé cherry, ice cream rather than icy.

This is in part due to Braxton expanding upon his former working practises, wherein pieces would be composed and executed through accumulated layers of loops, leading to a dense but sometimes clinical sound. Whilst the loops are still fundamental, for Central Market Braxton has enlisted the New York-based Wordless Music Orchestra, whose presence widens the album's sonic and emotional palette. Nowhere is this more evident than on 'Platinum Rows', the album's centrepiece and highlight. The song is a ten-minute epic of stabbing synths and slashing strings, careening along like the 'William Tell Overture' in a three-legged race with Bernard Herrmann's score to the shower scene in Psycho. Yet even here, where Braxton's music is at its most minatory, there is still a puckish sense of joyousness, as evinced by the heavy use of that most rock'n'roll of instruments, the kazoo.

This is not to imply that the album is completely alien to the work of Battles: 'J. City' is borne along on a looped guitar riff that would be perfectly at ease on Mirrored, and Braxton's vocals, whether treated or otherwise, pronounce this sense of familiarity. The beat boxing crops up on album closer 'Dead Strings', albeit in distorted form, underpinning a mesh of loops so dense it eventually collapses, the record halting nder the groaning of the very technology with which it is constructed.

Always a playful musician, in Central Market Braxton has crafted a set that is far more engaging and just plain enjoyable than his previous solo outings. He has drawn his own comparisons to Stravinsky; but perhaps a more informative point of reference is the Profokiev of 'Peter and the Wolf', both in terms of the bouncing arrangements, and the way in which Braxton's music seems uncannily to soundtrack mysterious, yet not otherworldly, events. It's a trait he shares with Tortoise, particularly on their It's All Around You, but where Tortoise can often convey a sense of melancholy, even lethargy, Braxton is far too energetic and mischievous, and even the most unsettling moments of his compositions retain a beguiling joie de vivre. Although it may not have quite the broad appeal of Mirrored, the curious will should certainly find something to cherish here.