In 2013, Red Bull Music Academy came to New York and set up shop in Chelsea. The paint had only just dried on our 18th Street HQ when we arrived in late April, but by the end of May, the 60 participants that walked through the door made it feel very much like a home. Sure, a home where you had to take an elevator to your bedroom studio. And, OK, a home where the recorded sounds of crickets were piped from one floor to another. But who wouldn’t want a home where the rather impressive monitoring system in the main recording studio was custom built into the wall?
Over several floors of the former Monahan Express Company building, architect Jeffrey Inaba designed a series of open spaces that encouraged happy accidents. The type of place where modular synths felt completely normal next to inflatable rats. Techno producers found common ground with folk guitarists. Vocal gymnasts fit their lively larynxes inside Ableton-supported house grids. Those who previously created completely inside-the-box found themselves conspicuously creating things next to or on top of it. Surprises, as the saying goes, were around just about every corner. (Except in the egg-shaped vestibule in the basement, which didn’t have any corners.)
The studios were in constant use when the participants weren’t enjoying a lecture from a musical luminary of some description. (Giorgio Moroder and Bok Bok among them.) And oftentimes those lecturers stuck around for a while and joined in: James Murphy revealed just how that distinctive DFA drum sound is achieved. (Mouse pads kind of help, apparently.) Slave’s Steve Arrington participated in an impromptu jam session. And Bernie Worrell watched approvingly as the fleet-fingered Thundercat showed off his bass technique.
And this compilation? Well, these are just some of the tracks that were put together by the participants at the Academy during that heady month. A few solo tracks. A whole lot of collaborations. As time passes at the Academy, those initial inhibitions are lost – and the fun starts. One dollar pizza slices become instant inspiration. A misheard guitar lick from the next studio over, too. And the equipment room – that trove of synths and drum machines and other mysterious circuitry – gets more and more empty. We’ve been seeing it happen since 1998: It’s a tale as old as the Academy itself. The tunes, though, are completely fresh. Pop it on – and be transported.
Check out the compilation on Soundcloud.
Bandcamp fan? We’ve got you covered there too.