AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Tyondai Braxton Live at the Graham Foundation in Chicago, May 20th, 2023

As part of the Winter/Spring program at Lampo (an org. that has been gracing Chicago with live performances of bleeding edge, boundary-pushing music for 25 years), Tyondai Braxton treated us to an hour-long set of solo electronics that provided this particular listener the high-volume ear cleansing over and above what was hoped for.  In fact, I’ll go as far as to say it wasn’t just a “cleansing”, more of a vigorous scrubbing that seeped its insidious self into the contours of the intellect like a squeezed sponge resulting in all kinds of that old time gnosis.

This was a premier performance of a piece called Vali.  Throughout its generous length, the work covered lots of aural territory.  Passages of calm flotsam routinely gave way to more raucous and vast fields of unhinged and wigged out techno beat jetsam.

Liberally sprinkled in and about were melodic sequences that while… not really danceable (unless you were one of the Secret Chiefs in Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks), more spasmodically head nodding.  Every once in a while, a bit of familiarity rose from the wilderness of weirdness into something vaguely resembling an Asian or Gamelan motif.

Sometimes these quasi-melodies were revisited during the course of the piece, but at a much slower velocity.  These variable speed changes enabled a huge change in the general mental atmosphere of the piece while also adorning the melodic content with a completely different character from its previous manifestation.

Holistically, Vali is a multi-faceted work, heavily detailed to the point of sound events happening so quickly and then poofing out of existence that my headspace couldn’t process everything.  The piece demands repeat listening’s and it’s one of those large scale acousmatic works that I think would benefit with a larger, more immersive delivery system.  Not that it didn’t sound amazing diffused through the two large speakers that Lampo had, but I did find myself dreaming how this would sound through one of those 3d Ambisonic systems.  I’m guessing if I heard it that way, I would still be in a catatonic state 24 hours later as I write this so, I should be careful what I wish for. 

One last observation, it was LOUD, internal organs being shifted LOUD… yeah, LOUD.  Vali is a powerhouse so, if you are in a meditative mood… good luck.  I for one was glad to be part of this sound-storm, it works for this piece. 

In two weeks, it will be Lampo’s 25th anniversary and they are celebrating with an appearance by Marcus Schmickler.  I’m sure I’ll be back for some words on that one too.

Mike Eisenberg
Twitter: @bigaudio999

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