There's nothing like a deadline to pull things into focus. "When you're making music on a computer, it's hard to know when to stop — you could keep going forever," says Hirotaka Umetani. "It helps to have a cut-off point."

For the 28-year-old Tokyo resident, who performs under the name Albino Sound, that cut-off point was March 18, 2014: the application deadline for this year's Red Bull Music Academy. Umetani spent two months working on the tracks that he submitted with his application, a pair of instrumentals in which layers of gauzy melody drift and billow over a rapid rhythmic pulse, like listening to Brian Eno while running up an escalator. He also poured himself into the application form, scribbling out a detailed chronicle of his varied musical obsessions.

The judges were sufficiently impressed to offer him a place among the Academy's 60 participants, selected from a field of more than 6,000 candidates. Never mind that the tracks he'd sent were the first things he'd ever produced on a computer.