Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tyondai Braxton- Central Market (2009)

I don't know how it took me so long to grab this one by Battles' former front man Tyondai Braxton considering that Mirrored is one of my favorite albums of all time. On Central Market, Braxton utilizes the same palette of sounds we heard on Mirrored: piercing whistles, grinding gear noises, loud yelps. But Central Market is definitely more of an orchestral album. Swooping violins weave in and out of the absolute chaos of frantic drum loops, thunderous brass and other indistinguishable noises. The album's standout "Platinum Rows" has this heavy-as-fuck electronic breakdown thing that keeps recurring throughout the song's ten and a half minutes. In-between these meticulously timed blasts of vocals and noise, trumpets, violins and xylophones schizophrenically dance the line between familiar melody, symphonic beauty and absolute tonal anarchy.

"Platinum Rows" serves as a sort of dividing line for the album. It features the zany, bubbly arrangements of the first half of the record, but also the dark, evil sounds that appear more prevalently in the record's second half. "Unfurling" is a droning menace, building suspense and then destroying it with unpredictable firecracker blasts. "J. City" is the most traditional sounding song on the album, pushing Braxton's impressive vocal range to the front over crunching, dissonant guitars. Album closer "Dead Strings" is as horrifying and nerve racking as its title, layering quivering violins over the creeping footsteps of the rhythm track before breaking out into an off-tempo barrage of drill noises.

Central Market seriously sounds like a Disney soundtrack on acid, albeit by the time you've started the second half, the trip has clearly soured. Braxton's use of whistling, kazoos and frantic violins to create most of the driving melodies, combined with some other decidedly circus-esque sounds, give it almost a childlike feel. But there's nothing childish about this album. Braxton's orchestral arrangement skills are absolutely mind-blowing. The strange tempos we hear in his work with Battles are everywhere, the layering of instrumentation is rich and the melodies and structural elements are complex. Don't get fooled by "Uffe's Workshop's" playful arrangements and similarly playful title fool you: there is a monster lurking here. But it is one that can be both revered and respected, feared and enjoyed. Central Market's vivid textures and ominous presence make it one of the most rewarding albums I've heard in a while. Click the album artwork to sample.

Recommended if you like: Glenn Branca, Battles, Black Dice

1. Opening Bell
2. Uffe's Workshop
3. The Duck and the Butcher
4. Platinum Rows
5. Unfurling
6. J. City
7. Dead Strings

Buy Central Market from Warp

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