Published May 08, 2015To distil a multi-sensory, mixed media art performance such that only a single element of the original concept remains, and to have the husk be just as engaging as the entirety, is not a feat for the faint of heart. Former Battles member Tyondai Braxton has done just that with HIVE1, his first solo effort for the Nonesuch imprint.
Originally developed as HIVE — a combination architectural installation and group performance that debuted at the Guggenheim in 2013 — the work eventually evolved into its present form, an album that drifts conceptually, its sonic terrain rife with transitions and mixed genre signifiers that are never entirely deployed. The performance featured musicians situated on lit oval pods, the overall mood heightened by changing patterns of light and colour. Stripped of the visual accompaniment, listeners continue to be challenged by the constantly mutating sense of non-structure that Braxton utilizes throughout the album, in which ambient textures butt up against near-IDM constructions and extraterrestrial communiqués. Outright weirdness confronts and overtakes comfortable musical tropes.
Braxton truly has created his own sonic alphabet here, and has employed it to draft a manuscript that is as sincere as it is creative. (Nonesuch)