During a February 2014 interview with FBi Radio, Tyondai Braxton described his forthcoming full-length effort as: “[an opportunity] to present this other side of myself.” Since parting ways with Battles in 2010, Braxton’s focus has been dominated largely by “high art,” and it was a commissioned work by the Guggenheim’s Works & Process that served as the impetus for Braxton’s Nonesuch debut, HIVE1. Performance and conversation stand as pillars to the organization’s mission of artistic creation, and the live element is fundamental to wholly appreciating this multi-sensory narrative. Alone, the electronic patchwork suffers beneath its own weighty veil.
To many, the best art urges us to question our own humanity, morality, and sensibilities. As the name of the album and performance suggests, both organic and electronic textures convey a sense of busy connection. During the album’s first third, Braxton tests the earthly limitations placed on the interplay of these polarizing forces. However, the transitions from ambient found sounds to free jazz, from tug boats to off-kilter percussion all arrive without any discernible motive. When those organic elements soothingly dissipate during the four-to-the-floor of “Amlochley”, no greater meaning issues from the shift.
Unlike a physical gallery space, an album is all too easy to exit. Before HIVE1 culminates with the interstellar tribal frequencies of “Scout 1”, the silence during “Boids” and “K2” and the chaotic IDM of mid-album cut “Studio Mariacha” open up easy escape routes. Those excuses to leave wouldn’t even necessarily come to mind when the tracks were presented in the halls of the Guggenheim with five live musicians stationed within their custom Uffef Surland Van Tams-designed pods.
No matter how much Braxton attempted to modify the exhibition piece for studio release, the project isn’t in focus without its accompanying visual elements. HIVE1 falls just short in its transformation from art piece to LP.
Essential Tracks: “Amlochley”, “Scout 1”