Album Reviews

Tyondai Braxton – Telekinesis

(New Amsterdam/Nonesuch) UK release date: 11 November 2022

This admirably ambitious, envelope-pushing 87-piece work features electric guitars, orchestra, choir, and electronics and coalesces into various jolts of adrenaline 

Tyondai Braxton, Andrew Cyr and Metropolis Ensemble - Telekinesis There is something unnerving about digital silence: quieter than any natural environment could be, it becomes more imposing than sound itself. Tyondai Braxton is no stranger to this element in his solo work, but Telekinesis mostly replaces it with the almost imperceptible ambience of the musicians’ rest.

Telekinesis is the result of a co-commission by London’s Southbank Centre and Musica Nova, Helsinki Festival, with the world premiere taking place all the way back in 2018, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Now released as a studio recording, the 87-piece work’s four movements combine electronic and orchestral sounds, and while this interplay sometimes feels random it coalesces into various jolts of adrenaline. We have tetchy marimba cluster chords, razor-sharp sawtooth pads, and what can only be described as a kind of dubstep foghorn among many other layers, and Braxton isn’t afraid to let them play out in isolation for maximum impact.

The listener is greeted immediately by the perilous sound of the Metropolis Ensemble conducted by Andrew Cyr, diminishing intervals creating a skidding effect and timpani filling out the low end. TK2_Wavefolder is the record’s most consistently intense track, as electric guitar twiddling rubs up against brass chords and ghostly choral contributions from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and chamber choir The Crossing. The movement is frequently arrhythmic, though a few galloping motifs surface to build momentum, a real avant-garde tour de force.

The following track TK3_FloatingLake serves as a contrast, with a remarkably sparse few minutes before an uneasy mid-tempo groove establishes itself, and the whizzes that dominate its grand finale represent the best sound design on Telekinesis. However, this movement lacks cohesion and unfortunately doesn’t surpass the sum of its parts.

For the album’s final section rhythm takes a commanding role, and TK4_Overgrowth features the orchestra’s overlapping ostinati battling the droning bass and slightly shrill sustained notes in the upper register. The track calms down for a quieter coda of tapping and whirring, similar to what has come before but in this context sounding purposeful. Thus brings to a close an envelope-pushing record, admirable in its ambition even when the thread gets a bit lost.

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