In 2007, when the post-rock outfit Battles released their debut album Mirrored, one reviewer wrote that it sounded ”less like rock circa 2007 than rock circa 2097”. The album’s tracks are off-kilter collections of looped and stacked live samples bent into complex, rhythmic, quasi-classical structures. Its most famous single, ”Atlas”, is a mass of guitar, keyboard and vocal samples (and live drumming) over which member Tyondai Braxton sings indecipherably through a pitch shifter. Mirrored turned out to be the last album on which Braxton appeared: he left the band in 2010, and the three remaining members continued on their own.
However, the bones of the Battles style had, in the first place, been imported from Braxton’s solo act. At least since his 2002 album History That Has No Effect, his work has been a combination of alternative and classical music defined by complex loops, atypical rhythms and a strong sense of dynamics that betrays his classical training. Braxton continued to grow on Rise, Rise, Rise (2003)—a split release with Parts & Labor—, which features the incredible “Jackpot” and “Disintegrating Reels”. His current creative pinnacle is Central Market (2009), a largely classical effort that cannot be described succinctly. Suffice it to say that it likely inspired Matthew Herbert’s comment that Braxton, alongside Mica Levi of Micachu & the Shapes, is the future of music.
Since becoming a full-fledged composer on Central Market, Braxton has been infiltrating traditional bastions of chamber music. In 2011, he toured with the Wordless Music Orchestra to perform Central Market at such locations as the Library of Congress and Lincoln Center. (The members of Still Eating Oranges were lucky enough to attend the latter—a truly stunning performance.) Earlier this year, Braxton returned to Lincoln Center, where he debuted a new piece called ”Casino Trem” to positive reviews. After the break, you may find a recording of last year’s Central Market concert at the Library of Congress, alongside material from Braxton’s earlier albums.