Tyondai Braxton’s most recent performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival was in 2007 as a member of Battles, a band he quit in 2010. He’s back at the festival this weekend, playing Friday night with Dirty Projectors—he adds modular synthesizer to several tracks from the group’s recent self-titled album. But when he left Battles, it was to focus on his own music, and he’s also booked a solo gig while he’s in town.
Braxton’s 2009 solo album Central Market (Warp) showed incredible promise. As I wrote in a year-end roundup that year:
Battles member Tyondai Braxton delivered the art-rock album of the year, a sprawling, twitchy collection of songs that managed to be mercilessly jarring and complicated yet richly entertaining. He taps into modern classical music for unexpected string-instrument passages that careen through the rigorous, baffling drumming of Ian Antonio of Zs; Braxton himself plays guitar and sings in a giddy, manic, fluid style that’s all his own.
By the time he got around to releasing a follow-up, Hive1 (Nonesuch), in 2015, his sound had shifted radically. Braxton became enamored of analog synthesizers, and Hive1 jumped head-first into bruising abstraction, its blorpy, skittering electronic patterns colliding with spazzy, complex drumming. The album had its roots in a 2013 Braxton sound installation presented by New York’s Guggenheim Museum, which he later transformed into a somewhat unwieldy live show, with two synthesizer players and three percussionists atop elevated pods designed by Danish architect Uffe Surland Van Tams—I caught a superloud performance of the project at the Big Ears Festival in 2015.
Braxton hasn’t performed his own music in Chicago since a set at the 2006 Pitchfork Music Festival, but he finally returns to do it again on Saturday at Constellation. Last year Braxton released the digital-only solo EP Oranged Out, which consists of material originally meant for Hive1, and proceeds from the name-your-price release benefit the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. Everytown is connected to the Wear Orange campaign, and both organizations have partnered with Pitchfork for Beats Over Bullets, a public-awareness campaign against gun violence at this year’s festival. Below you can check out the stuttering, twinkling title track.
Minguet Quartett, Wolfgang Rihm: String Quartets Vol. 2 (Nos. 5 & 6) (Col Legno)
Stanley Turrentine, Dearly Beloved (Blue Note)
Stein Urheim & Mari Kvien Brunvoll, For Individuals Facing the Terror of Cosmic Loneliness (Jazzland)
Ahehehinnou Vincent, Best Woman (Analog Africa)
Hong Chulki & Ryu Hankil, Objets Infernaux (Erstwhile)