28.02.2010, Words by Charlie Jones

The Red Bull Music Academy

The Royal Festival Hall is not normally a venue synonymous with Techno. Neither is Red Bull a brand usually associated with cutting-edge electronic music that really matters. But recent efforts to curate the most important collection of music and music-related sessions of our time have gone a long way toward dispelling both of these notions. Sponsored by the most dancefloor-friendly soft drink in the world, The Red Bull Music Academy (over the space of four weeks) is rapidly going from a relatively unheard of concept to what can only be described as an important, groundbreaking institution.

Walking into the Southbank Centre, the venue is rammed with a crowd not normally found in the venue on a Friday night. East London trendies meet veteran ravers to form an unlikely congregation. Into the auditorium, the sound of Matmos’ tonal, Close-Encounters-of-the-Third-Kind synths over projections of grass, leaves and other types of spring time greenery is nothing short of bracing. Then the arrival of the inevitable 4X4 really hammers home the Academy’s message; music not only requires care and attention, it deserves time. Presenting music as a spectacle is the most fitting way to experience it. Anyone (God forbid) who dismissed Techno as music for “the body only” should think again. While I never thought that sitting down and facing the front was the way to do it, I am gradually coming round to the idea. Tapping into the movements of this glistening shower of electronic sound in situ stimulates the senses. Focus is absorbing. It enhances the experience. Except for when the arrival of the beat creates a chorus of whistles and a collective urge to fist pump. Surely, it’s time to dance, right? God, this is confusing.

A short hiatus and a beer at the foyet bar and back in for Carl Craig, Francesco Tristano, Moritz Von Oswald with David Brutti on bass saxophone. Imagine the C2 remix of Tristano’s The Melody constructed as a 35-minute long piece of music that builds gradually. With Craig steering the electonics and Von Oswald bending/distorting Brutti’s subtle jazz accompaniment, Tristano sticks to what he does best – delicately (at times forcibly) twinkling over a classic piano. This is Techno at its finest. Okay, it might not be visceral to the point of rapture but it certainly is cerebral. Mesmerising. Made all the more so by the grid-like matrix projections that later become a CGI head with a throbbing temple. If the Academy’s message wasn’t clear before, it definitely is now.

After a quick standing ovation, the crowds spill out the auditorium and into the Southbank centre’s open space where DJ Sprinkles is waiting to provide an outlet for those feeling restricted by the seating arrangement. LNR Work It To The Bone offers the perfect way to shake off any congested energy. A pleasant reminder that Techno and House music is also made for dancing.

The Red Bull Music Academy is running until March 12 (check the website for the remaining events)

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