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tyondai braxton - Central Market
A second solo album from Battles band leader Tyondai Braxton, and this one sounds breathtakingly adventurous, mixing cutting edge, innovative electronics with modern composition. In fact, it's as a composer that Braxton really makes his mark here; we already know about his skill for decimating song structures with his selection of effects an laptop plugins, but on Central Market the musician harnesses the full power of the Wordless Music Orchestra (an outfit previously known for their work on Jonny Greenwood's solo compositions). The first thing to strike you here is just how much fun it all sounds, as earnest and challenging as this record is capable of being, within the first minute or so of 'Opening Bell' you can hear a sense of humour at work: in amongst those complex, interlocking instrumental layers Braxton goes a bit Looney Tunes now and then, establishing a playful militaristic stomp by the end of the piece while woodwind leads flutter across the stave restlessly. Getting us closer to Battles terrain, 'Uffe's Woodshop' bristles with stuttering complexity and relentless energy - like 'Tonto' gone all Leonard Bernstein. Even stranger is 'The Duck And The Butcher' whose intricate guitar lines and vocal effects link up with a spot of kazoo-based math-rock. The album's centrepiece (and arguably its crowning achievement) is 'Platinum Rows', a brilliantly complex, polyrhythmic piece of experimental orchestration that exudes technical accomplishment on the parts of both players and composer alike. After this point the album takes a turn towards material that's more purely tethered to electronics and guitar: 'Unfurling' squawks and drones like an academic acousmatic piece, while 'J. City' is like Fugazi being mauled by a string ensemble, before 'Dead Strings' erupts into a flurry of digitally enhanced rock pyrotechnics that really clears the sinuses. Highly recommended.