Since its launch in 2010, the independent record label Tri Angle has been gaining a reputation among industry insiders as a tastemaker to watch. The record label has gained so much traction in the past five years that this year, as part of the annual Red Bull Music Academy Festival, the Red Bull Music Academy decided to sponsor an anniversary party for Tri Angle, right in the heart of downtown Manhattan’s financial district.
Beautiful and darkly-clad Manhattanites trooped to 23 Wall Street last Friday night in order to ascend the intimidating Gothic steps of JP Morgan’s infamous abandoned bank vaults, and to descend into a singularly shadowy and experimental, avant-garde, electronic music experience. The venue itself, being an underground, concrete-walled vestige to earlier eras of financial power in New York City, would effuse an ominous vibration under normal circumstances, but RBMA truly outdid itself in terms of production value for this party. The disorienting fog machines, blinding floodlights, torn curtains, and eery light projections were all state-of-the-art, they had clearly been mounted and staged by professionals, and these elements contributed, exactly as they were intended, to the evening’s apocalyptic, unsettling, minimal-industrial atmosphere.
Since its inception, Tri Angle has been building a certain mystique around itself, and today the indie label is considered to be highly influential, particularly within the electronic music scene. In 2011, Tri Angle was named one of the top 50 labels in America by Billboard, and Dazed & Confused magazine recently wrote that Tri Angle is “one of today’s most singular musical tribes.” The label has released critically-acclaimed records by artists such as The Haxan Cloak, who collaborated with Bjork on her latest album, Forest Swords, Holy Other and Clams Casino. Many of these artists were present and performed impressive sets at the record label’s fifth anniversary party.
I was particularly impressed by Forest Swords, the UK-based electronic music producer whose track “The Weight of Gold“, is intoxicatingly heavy, ambient, tribal and complex. When Forest Swords was on stage, the crowd was not dancing. The music was more powerful than that, so the crowd only swayed, hypnotized. Everybody listening was lost in his or her own head space. We were somehow all glued together by the visceral energy of the music: swaying together in the darkness, with freaky lasers electrifying the shadows above our heads. It was quite the curated musical experience. Bravo, Red Bull. Bravo.
The only downside to letting Red Bull sponsor your parties is that there will be an excessive amount of Red Bull and Red Bull paraphernalia being shoved in people’s faces at the bar. It is the only trade off, and, obviously, some artists consider this commercial element to be a small sacrifice to make, when cutting-edge sound and lighting equipment are on the table, in addition to access to unusual venues in the middle of Manhattan, such as 23 Wall Street.