Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York 2015 From PC Music, Tri Angle, and GHE20G0TH1K, to Raw Sound Transgression, La Monte Young, and Electronic Africa

For the entire month of May, the Red Bull Music Academy has brought another incredible series of performances, club nights, lectures, and workshops to New York. In addition to a performance by FKA Twigs and conversations with A$AP Rocky and George Clinton, RBMA also put on the following showcases:

- Pop Cube: PC Music & SOPHIE
- Nothing Changes: Raw Sound Transgression: Merzbow, Genesis P-Orridge & Aaron Dilloway (performing Electric Newspapers), Pharmakon, Prurient (performing Pleasure Ground), Ron Morelli, Marshstepper, Uniform
- Tri Angle Records 5th Anniversary: The Haxan Cloak, Evian Christ, Holy Other, Forest Swords, Vessel, mssingno, Boothroyd, Lotic, Rabit, Hanz
- GHE20G0TH1K: Sissy Nobby, Venus X, Ma Nguzu, Mike Q, Divoli S’Vere, Total Freedom + special guests (hosted by Hood by Air)
- Electronic Africa: Nozinja, Titica, DJ Spoko, Chief Boima, Dubbel Dutch
- A Conversation with La Monte Young

Tiny Mix Tapes sent four writers — C Monster, SCVSCV, Adam Devlin, and Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli — to cover these events, which included a surprise set by Björk, a talk by the “daddy of us all,” and a white Cadillac SUV stretch limo.


Tri Angle Records 5th Anniversary

Rabit

Through a new slew of releases, the grander curatorial mission of Tri Angle Records has shifted into focus, revealing (to me) the genius of their project — curating the cohesion between razor-sharp personal visions of their individual artists with a larger, visible grandiosity. Perhaps such grandiosity finds its perfect avatar in Björk; the songstress has naturally gravitated toward the cold, exhilarating, modern aesthetic Tri Angle has been proliferating. Through the Haxan Cloak’s production credits on Vulnicura and a “courtship” of remixes and guest radio appearances, it seemed Björk’s involvement with Tri Angle was hinted at as a set-up for her revelatory appearance at their fifth anniversary show. Yes, Björk skittered up on the smaller of two stages, essentially a sweaty garage, to deliver a full DJ set looking like a champagne-sipping, black leather-clad ice-demon armed with CDJs and a jeweled Givenchy-style mask. Her set came after a sharp performance from Tri Angle newcomer and TMT favorite Hanz, who dropped incisive, heady breakbeats that called to mind angry DJ Shadow tracks sliced apart by a ronin-warrior with Hanzo-grade steel.

The introverted, entrancing nature of his set nonchalantly led up to Björk (slipping into a time-slot billed as label head Robin Carolan). She delivered a heavy polymerization of world female vocals, culled from Sufi and Fado acapellas that freely danced over deep, aggressive club cuts — Bloom, Rabit, Vessel, and Lotic among them. The smaller room was by far more energetic than the main stage; I found myself drifting away during lumbering, sleepy sets by Holy Other, Forest Swords, and found my ears splitting during the Haxan Cloak’s brutal dirges. Yet, it was Lotic who stole the show, even outmatching the GHE20GOTH1K squad’s liberation tactics by delivering an inspirational performance that saw him dancing on the table amidst hunky, shirtless dancers (Total Freedom among them) who were blissing out to Lotic’s violent beat-craft and entrancing, vogue-like hand movements. By the time Evian Christ came to the main stage many were scurrying out during Lotic’s final moments; yet, Christ’s big, over-inflated beats paled in comparison to the sweaty, floor-focused energy of Lotic. The event took place in the basement of a former JP Morgan bank on Wall street, both stages flanked by a giant steel vault that reverberated the evening’s ever-present sub-bass. It was a fitting location, as metallic, dark beats seemed to be overtaking and even representing a vision of abandoned post-capitalism where new idols are celebrated ritualistically in the basements of destroyed banks.

Nothing Changes: Raw Sound Transgression

Merzbow

Red Bull’s now-annual and consistently well-curated noise showcase is as perversely well-suited to the corporate behemoth’s purview as PC Music’s accelerationist pop-commericalism, albeit in shrieking inverse. With this year’s installment at Williamsburg lux dance haven Output, the soda-sponsored set scanned as a seething expression of the creeping anxiety and instability that accompanies a hyper-corporatized environment, the dystopian impulses of many of the assembled artists run through a concert environment that began with a 45-minute line for ticket holders paying $25 a piece, followed by a more-invasive-than-TSA pat down, $4 coat check and $12 well drinks, and prowling security squad that was both polite and consistently in the way. If last year’s installment focused on overt forms of social control through police officer’s attacking patrons and filming the proceedings from the roof, this year’s moved it to the structural level, under-girding and inflecting the proceedings rather than tacked on top of them.

Pharmakon’s strangled howls and thudding percussive elements came off as choked and impotent through the club’s hyper-clear speakers and an awkwardly quiet mix, but this strange synthesis seemed suitable for the clashing mix of venue, sponsor and style, as did Prurient’s oddly faithful and reverent performance of his now-classic album Pleasure Ground, also suffering a strangled mix, resulting in a more humbly miserable and regimented production than one might suspect of an album so monolithic. Dilloway and Genesis continued their investigations of the powers of affect and vocal texture against an almost comically (and presumably deliberately) inexpressive drone backing, while in another room the wonderful Rob Morelli remained unsurprisingly unattended along with a host of other club-oriented DJs.

Perhaps the two folks snaking their tongues together while keeping their faces at least 1 inch apart during Prurient felt otherwise, but a general sense of malaise and hopelessness hung over the proceedings, abstaining from the furious rejection that sometimes marks the genre. Working in a strange tandem with the heavily commercialized space — and nothing intrinsic to noise makes it somehow ‘anti-corporate,’ let’s be clear — the acts were depressing on a conceptual rather than empathetic level, and oddly powerful for it.

When Merzbow began at 2AM, things shifted. Beginning with an oddly tonal drone for five minutes then cutting abruptly to a full spectrum blanket of harsh white noise with a clear and triumphantly loud mix, Merzbow pushed aside conceptual issues with an encompassing thicket of body-affective sound. Purely aesthetic in a modernist sense, if it weren’t for the fact that Merzbow’s live show is capable of generating a sonic environment that subsumes the one it’s placed within, Red Bull and Output drifted into the far, far background and pure noise took its place. I felt very calm and very good.

I left immediately. It was 3AM. On the way home, I started to feel weird again, but got over it.

A Conversation with La Monte Young

La Monte Young

Tucked in the basement of Red Bull Studios, the Chelsea gallery space/HQ that hosted DiS Magazine’s DISown show, curatorial efforts by Phong Bui, and Ryder Ripps’ Alone Together installation, the near century-old father of contemporary minimalism lit incense while Ragas played through Yamaha speakers, a chorus of cameras clicking-away incessantly, droning in their own weird display of idol-worship happening IRL at the feet of the contempo-master. Despite the apparent tension between Raga music and Tuarine, La Monte Young had a calm energy that proved he had compartmentalized much of the world’s suffering neatly into the infinity of time, as his undying focus on the resounding note that extends into the cosmos allowed his talk to be just a riternello — a brief return to the new American theme he so expertly defined, expanded, and eventually avoided completely. The bravado of an energy drink (lights, camera…Red Bull) paled in comparison to his quasi-mystic charm; for Young, a fleeting capital exchange with a corporate entity was not a cause for political alarm or ethical resistance.

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