Former Battles singer/guitarist Tyondai Braxton has announced that he will release a new album of contemporary compositions entitled HIVE1.
The recordings for HIVE1 are based on a collaborative multi-media installation that Braxton composed entitled HIVE, which debuted in New York’s Guggenheim museum in 2013. The show focused on five musicians (including Braxton) sitting cross-legged on futuristic platforms, with LED lights coordinated with the composition. Listeners were up close and personal, able to watch the musicians interact. According to Braxton, the peice derived it’s name from all of the social interaction going on between the musicians and the audience: “there’s a very social aspect to what’s happening in this project. Technologically speaking, the performers of the piece are very connected together.”
To share the music with more people, Braxton has turned the eight interactive compositions into recorded pieces over the past two years following the initial HIVE installation in New York. Braxton and label Nonesuch intend to release the recorded material–dubbed HIVE1–on May 12th of this year. His debut for the label, fans have been hotly anticipating the release of new recorded material from Braxton. The album is available to pre-order now through the Nonesuch website.
If the first advanced track “Scout1” (which you can hear in full at the bottom of this article) is any indication, than listeners can expect a very nuanced and engrossing environment. Rhythm is used harmonically and melodies are used rhythmically. The multi-part suite is just as dense with glitchy percussion as it is with whirring oscillators and minimalist synth lines. The end result sounds like if Handel had final say in the recording sessions for David Bowie’s Low.
Most impressive about the song, however, is how these sounds, even when they’re clashing with each other, never sound grating as a listener. Yet, the song remains firmly ensconced in the world of avant garde composition, walking a wobbly tightrope between confrontational musical vanguard and subtly nuanced composition–which it navigates brilliantly. Even the song’s more intense moments are palatable, even if you are aware that you’re hearing computers interacting with computers in an indecipherable foreign tongue. As long as you’re willing to grant the song that space in your mind, you will be treated to a haunting epic, perfect for get away music for a futuristic dystopian thriller.
Following his departure from Battles, Braxton has moved away from rock experimentation and more toward compositional expression. Though he is still a guitarist at heart and does a lot of his composing on the instrument, he has described his guitar playing as “literal”–meaning that he’s more interested in using his guitar as a sound to work within the context of a composition than he is in using it to whip out face-melting solos.
Within a year of leaving the avant rock group, Braxton made good on these aspirations, performing his composition Central Market with the Wordless Orchestra. 2012 would see Braxton working and collaborating along with one of his idols, Phillip Glass, perfoming opposite him as part of All Tomorrow’s Parties festival’s I’ll Be Your Mirror series. Braxton has also been commissioned to compose scores for such renowned contemporary ensembles as The Bang on a Can All Stars, Kronos Quartet, Alarm Will Sound and Brooklyn Rider.
04. Studio Mariacha
Listen to Braxton’s first advanced release off of HIVE1, “Scout1,” below.