RBMA 2013: Flying Lotus

by Reginald Duvivier

The Red Bull Music Academy grows larger and larger; in it’s original incarnation it was to help talented musicians collaborate and feed off each other. In the 2013 NYC edition these core values have expanded tenfold; it’s slowly becoming one of the best travelling festivals in the world. For two nights they decided to bring electronic composer overlord Flying Lotus to the cavernous Terminal 5 with friends in toe; The Underachievers, Ultraista and Thundercat.

The Underachievers are a very young duo of NYC rap stalwarts who never met a drug or a 90’s hip-hop beat they didn’t like.

Ultraisa features mega producer and Thom Yorke BFF Nigel Goodrich (Radiohead, Beck, Atoms for Peace), popular drummer for hire Joey Waronker(Atoms For Peace, Norah Jones, Smashing Pumpkins), and vocalist/keyboardist Laura Bettinson. The music they play is best described as complex pop music; afrobeat,-esque drums with synths, bass and vocals layered on top of each other. Live the band takes stage in front of a huge projector while distorted videos bathe them in light and darkness.

Thundercat, a frequent Flying Lotus collaborator and great musician in his own right, hit the stage next. His soulful vocals and virtuosic bass guitar work brought a pretty edge to the night. His counterpoint on stage was the always-phenomenal Thomas Pridgen, the ex-Mars Volta drummer who rained down drum fills and solos keeping the crowd on their toes.

Eventually the man of the hour emerged from the side of the stage. He announced during the middle of his set, “People complained last night was too turned up. So I decided to take y’all to space”. Surrounded by two screens, he twisted sounds into something otherworldly…lights and shapes danced around him while he orchestrated a litany of music. Before anyone could complain that it was a bit too trippy he made sure to throw a few anchors to the crowd like a sped up version of Kendrick Lamar’s “Backyard Freestyle”. He even popped out from behind the setup to perform a few Captain Murphy tracks.