The Mobile Studio: A Look at Gorillaz' iPad Album

Gorillaz are an act that exist on the cutting-edge of pop music, reworking the usual definitions of radio hits through atypical singles, making idols of cartoon characters with offbeat videos and now, with the recent release of The Fall, an album recorded and produced almost entirely on the iPad, they're opening the doors for a brand new approach to music creation too.

Gorillaz are an act that exist on the cutting-edge of pop music, reworking the usual definitions of radio hits through atypical singles, making idols of cartoon characters with offbeat videos and now, with the recent release of The Fall, an album recorded and produced almost entirely on the iPad, they’re opening the doors for a brand new approach to music creation too.

Co-creator and principal Gorillaz songwriter, Damon Albarn, is the kind of artist that looks to new technologies for inspiration in his work so it’s not entirely surprising to see that Apple’s iPad served as the catalyst for his band’s latest musical output. Recorded in 32 days while on tour supporting Plastic Beach, The Fall was written and put together between shows using one of the most humble examples of a mobile recording studio yet.

Armed with an iPad, a handful of voices, a few scant selections of organic instruments and a suite of music creation apps, Gorillaz set out to produce an album that made the most of the limited means available from the road. Aside from moments where outside instruments are included, The Fall was created using iPad apps available to anyone with the device and an iTunes account. Mugician, Dub Siren Pro, BS-16i, BassLine, AmpliTude and the Moog Filatron are among the digital tools that served to facilitate the recording of songs that would traditionally have required the use of expensive hardware (not to mention plenty of soundproofed space).

On December 20th, Gorillaz announced that they had finished a new album that was to be released for free, online on Christmas Day. Between the early autumn Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour kick-off and the end of the year, the group had accomplished what would have been entirely impossible in the past; putting out a new, full-length record while also staging a series of highly-involved international shows. By running with the old custom of sketching out new songs in tour vans (but replacing acoustic guitars with gadgets and “sketching” with “recording and producing”) Gorillaz were able to use technology in a novel manner that provided both an appropriate outlet for their creativity and a welcome, unprecedented surprise for their fans.

What is most impressive about The Fall is that it doesn’t sound limited in scope or at all hindered by (what many of us would suppose would be) the limitations of iPad-based production. If you like Gorillaz (particularly the electro-focus of their considerable B-side collections) then you’re sure to like the album and appreciate it alongside the group’s traditional recording efforts. All of the hypnotic grooves, sublime melancholy and innovative structuring that makes the rest of Gorillaz’ output noteworthy is found here. iPad or no iPad, The Fall is, ultimately, just a really good record.

This is, after all, the most important point to make about the whole experiment. What Gorillaz accomplished with limited technology and several talented musicians demonstrates that just about anyone can create a wonderful album without the funding of a major record label. Albarn and Co. have mixed and mastered The Fall with professional equipment and, yeah sure, we don’t all have the money to pick up an iPad but, nonetheless, the bottom line remains the same: technology is democratizing music and Gorillaz are showing us that you can sound like a massive band without having an equally massive bank account.

Check the album out for yourself — it’s free (after you’ve provided your email address), it’s really good and it just may represent the future of digital recording.