Published May 31, 2015As the screen was raised on the Théâtre Maisonneuve stage, five oval pods were revealed, in which former Battles frontman Tyondai Braxton and four other musicians took their seats to begin a performance that was like no other. The five-piece, which featured three percussionists and two modular synth manipulators, performed some of the most amorphous music I've heard.
At first it was a mix of intense tribal drumming, while Braxton himself delivered a bounty of dub squelches. Later pieces were more reminiscent of a digital rainforest, with animal-like interruptions dotted throughout. The show was a maddening cacophony of sounds, which would have been unbearably grating were it not for the obvious talents of each musician. Whenever the pieces got to be too hectic — which happened quite often — you could still hone in on one performer and marvel at their individual prowess.
Yet, despite the seeming disjointedness of many of the tracks' opening minutes, things always began to gel after a while. This was the hive-mind at work. Separate elements working together as one organism. The drummers in particular seemed to be connected through some unknown channels, as they were so in sync at times that they scarcely seemed individual at all. The group saved the most coherent material for the end, which rose beautifully out of the storm of seemingly random noises that preceded it.
After seeing Hive performed, it's no wonder Braxton left Battles when he did. The remaining members, as well as a large portion of the world, are not prepared for this.