Release Date: Oct 25, 2011
Record label: Hippos in Tanks
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
James Ferraro's latest stares down our contemporary world of the future, invaded by iPads, overwhelmed by Skype meetings, and caught up in the unnecessary conveniences of self-serve frozen yogurt spots, with an equal sense of dread and awe. All those 1980s and 90s approximations of the future, in which we'd collectively have luxury stacked on top of luxury, actually sort of arrived, and they're totally awesome-- and really fucking creepy. Far Side Virtual is inspired by goofy junk like the Windows 95 sound (composed by Brian Eno, it should be mentioned) and the melodies that kick out of a medium-priced keyboard when you punch the "demo" button.
The last few years have shown James Ferraro to be a prolific music maker with unfathomable capacity, reeling off a copious amount of albums since just 2008 — most of which came through his own New Age Tapes label — not to mention his VHS via Hundebiss Records. Even so, Far Side Virtual comes at the end of a relatively restrained year for him, which makes it all the more treasurable. Having released a preface in the form of the Condo Pets EP, this is Ferraro’s debut full-length for label Hippos In Tanks — the proceeds from which, he claims, will go toward facial reconstructive plastic surgery: “My new face will be fashioned after CCTV’s satellite queen, Princess Diana, and you will be able to see it live in concert on the Far Side Virtual World Tour… Always Coca-Cola.
It’s normally a question asked of those in the upper tier of their chosen artistic medium: ‘do you read your own press?’ The implied question being, ‘are you in fact airlessly sealed away from the little people and their peasant opinions, thanks to the trappings of modern celebrity culture?’ Listening to Far Side Virtual, one of the most high profile releases to date by James Ferraro – an American experimentalist who has released literally hundreds of hours of music since 2004 – there might be a similar question to be asked of him. Obviously he isn’t too famous to read reviews of his releases (we could probably open this out to blog and messageboard posts, really), but listening to a lot of them, you could easily believe that here is a man who’s paid pretty much no attention to musical, artistic, technological or political changes in the last 15 years. The themes permeating this album could be read as an attempt to confound people who have him pegged as such.
Sifting through James Ferraro's vast discography can be an exhausting task. Up until this year he's been frighteningly prolific, amassing a labyrinthine back catalogue of limited CDRs, cassettes and vinyl LPs, under a whole range of pseudonyms. That we've heard nothing in 2011 from the former Skater until now (save a recent teaser EP, Condo Pets), then, comes as something of a break from typical form.