Cause and Effects

Brooklyn resident Tyondai Braxton expresses his art in varied contexts and mediums. Most recently, Braxton son of experimental multireedist and composer
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Brooklyn resident Tyondai Braxton expresses his art in varied contexts and mediums. Most recently, Braxton — son of experimental multireedist and composer Anthony Braxton — created a multimedia project that involves a ten-piece band, two choirs, strings, three movie projectors, and onstage theatrics titled N.E.A.R. He also unveiled Excavating Kaw, a composition for six 4-track cassette recorders, and maintains an active schedule with his art-rock power trio, Antenna Terra.

Braxton calls History That Has No Effect his “solo loop record.” He created source material live using guitar, voice, and drums. Guest musicians Jonah Sacks and Karen Waltuch contributed cello and viola parts, respectively. Braxton then created each loop using an array of nine effects pedals as his compositional tools. The album offers a continuously evolving and ominous-sounding stompbox serenade, full of ear-catching, morphing, unsettling, and often unrecognizable sounds.

“I recorded this album in my apartment,” Braxton says. “All I did was line out my Fender Performer 1000 guitar amp into a Yamaha MD8 8-track MiniDisc recorder. Most of the audible parts were done live, and then I would overdub the drums later on.” He used “an old Realistic mic in the center of the room” to capture drums, strings, and vocals. He considers the guitar amp essential to his sounds. “It's half solid-state, half tube. It's almost overly bright, and when you put it into a P.A. to deepen the sound, the sonic range has a little more balance.”

Braxton developed a “two-tier” processing format for building loops. “In the first tier, I tailor sounds to my liking, using the different effects to define character and color,” he says. “I'll release them to the second tier when I feel they're fit to be released.” He first creates and processes sounds while listening through headphones. Braxton is guarded about revealing his complete pedal lineup and the function of each pedal within his system. However, he is willing to share a few details. His pedals include a Korg AX1G multi-effects processor and a Boss OS-3 OverDrive/Distortion. The DigiTech XP300 Space Station serves as the line selector between headphones and the second tier.

His second tier consists of a Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro looping delay processor (Braxton's main “canvas”) and a Morley Volume Pedal for controlling volume. For mixing the album, “I went to Mike Bowden, who's an amazing engineer,” Braxton says. “I exported the MD8 tracks through his Digi 001 into his Pro Tools LE system. It was a little rough because there's no S/PDIF on the MD8, so there was a loss of sound quality. He worked some miracles, EQ-wise.”

Braxton cultivated his techniques over several years. “I'd mess around with my delay pedal, two seconds' worth of delay time with maximum feedback, just layering chords or rhythms,” he says. “I wanted a self-contained ensemble because I was used to playing in bands.” Braxton studied the characteristics, nuances, and limitations of each pedal that he acquired. “You have to look at [each pedal] as an instrument to master. You start experimenting in terms of what the pedal is physically capable of doing.

“I just want to be an artist,” Braxton says. He plans to record another solo loop project. “After a series of deviating works, I'll go back to the loop thing. As much as I want to try new things, I feel like it wouldn't be right if I didn't examine what I've done in the past and try to further it.”

For more information, contact JMZ Records, 220 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211; tel. (646) 552-5107; Webwww.jmzrecords.com.