Monday, November 28, 2011

James Ferraro - Far Side Virtual

Note: this isn't listening music, it's an art piece.
As such, it utilizes the same themes chillwave relies on (nostalgia, a DIY approach, de- and re-contextualization of old, even dated material) to mock that genre and all its associations. The message of the album is quite complex: Ferraro is asserting that originality of material is unnecessary in art (which has been a topic in the art world at least since Duchamp), but he also seems to think that our current culture is devoid of originality. Whereas the tape culture Ferraro came from prefers to make its references unrecognizable by way of distortion, elongation, etc. (and this can certainly be applied to any and all music influenced by the proto-sampling of early Tape Music, up to and including Hip Hop, Techno, Pop, etc.); on this album the focus is on using these processes without masking the source material. In effect, the result is a demasking of the past, say, decade of electronica, but more importantly of American culture at large, which certainly seems (to me, at least) to often be a collection of rehashed tropes.
This is why it's fairly useless to comment on particular sounds; the fact that the Skype sound is more recognizable than another corporate sample is only coincidence, and Ferraro intends all of them to be on an equal footing with the shitty preset synth sounds throughout the album. Indeed, even to speak about individual tracks seems futile, because the approach is what's revolutionary here, not the auditory result. By creating such a raw—and at times, ugly—work by essentially inverting modern music, Ferraro shows that American culture often presents nothing other than decoration. This in itself is worth noting (it's also a major theme in Klimt's work), but I would assert that Ferraro goes one step further to show that this culture is not simply ornamentation, but a ruse.
Despite the tongue-in-cheek irreverence, this is a truly honest album, and, like Swift's "A Modest Proposal," it is a premonition of our society's future based on current trends. Ferraro's past career was very much hit-or-miss, but he cements his status as both an artist and a social commentator with this forward-thinking album.

Essential listening.