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james ferraro - Far Side Virtual
For the past seven years or more James Ferraro has been mapping out the MTV-reared, internet-scrambled parapsychology of an entire f*cked up generation, releasing countless tapes, CD-Rs and LPs to expound and expand his pungently postmodern vision. Recently that slew has abated a little while he's been preparing this full-length for Hippos In Tanks, and now we can see why: Far Side Virtual is by far the most evolved, immersive, accessible and acute Ferraro offering to date, at once a major departure from his previous work and a perfect distillation of his long-standing themes. On first contact, the shedding of his long-standing lowest-fi aesthetic in favour of punchy, pin-sharp production is a bit of a shock, but ultimately this strategy proves all the more subversive; rather than simply commenting on the beast of hyper-consumerism, he's now broadcasting from within it its Gatorade-lined belly. With titular references to Google, Mac, wi-fi, Pixar and Starbucks, conceptually it's an attempt to capture something of the vulgar way we live now; sonically the whole thing is a psychedelic fantasia on the kind of music you hear when on hold to a dodgy insurance agent, or soundtracking a TV ad for dial-0800-GET-THIN diet pills - all cheap synths, glitzy chimes and oversexed saxophones, melodies deeply sinister in their utopian promise. There's still that all-important tape-bounced, hypnagogic distance to proceedings, but for the most part what we have hear is a kind of unheimlich techno-pop that's like nothing else out there, and yet instantly, eerily familiar - thanks to its roots in the audio-visual shrapnel of the everyday.