In the infamous Wire article on hypnagogic pop, James Ferraro had at least two incredible quotes. The first was about his membership in the “first church of Lenny Kravitz”: “My membership there has helped me with this process: trying to download someone else’s headspace–sometimes the most extreme being that of a virtual celeb image–opened up different aspects of consciousness and life potential and interactions beyond my wildest dreams.” The second concerned his interest in so called “trash” culture: “I think aspects of human culture that some people regard as unimportant actually operate within a really deep system of ancient symbolism and human archetypes. Hard Rock Cafes, strip clubs, gyms, celebrities, etc, are all great examples of this, of roadside temples. My albums are like downloads from that body of information…”
Whatever you think of these quotes, you’ve got to admit that Ferraro has done something few artists making new age instrumental drone music can do: create an aura about themselves. You could argue it’s ridiculous to attach all these ideas about trash culture and downloading celebrity “headspaces” to what sounds like a sixth generation tape dub of a “Sounds of the Ocean” meditation tape (or a warped Betamax of a Jane Fonda workout video), but music has always been a conduit for fantasies and meditations. Drone and ambient music have always been difficult genres to describe without resorting to vague cliches like “trippy” or “chill” or “stoned” (something I’m certainly guilty of); that’s why brilliant albums like Infinity Window’s Artificial Midnight or Super Minerals’s Multitudes so easily slip through the cracks–they’re gorgeous, impeccably made instrumental drone albums, but without a larger context (a scene, a sound, a crazy live show) to connect them to, they don’t stand much chance of being heard outside certain small circles. By creating a context within which to hear his music, Ferraro has made sure that his music won’t be ignored.
Released in October and November, The Summer Headrush series so far consists of the following albums: Rerex 1 and 2, Body Fusion 1 and 2, iAsia, Wild World, Son of Dracula (the only one I haven’t heard yet), and Hacker Track. Rerex 1 and 2 sound like Ferraro’s most conventionally beautiful records, Discovery, Clear, and Marble Surf. This side of Ferraro is closest to the new age ambient music of Tangerine Dream or Eno, full of fluttering keyboard arpeggios and whale sound synths. With track titles like “Shemale,” “Angel Alien,” and “Species Within,” Body Fusion 1 and 2 are darker, sounding a lot like wholly electronic versions of Popul Vuh’s soundtracks for Herzog’s “Aguirre, Wrath of God” and “Heart of Glass,” all minor key drones and eerie bell sounds. Wild World, probably my favorite of the series, is very similar to earlier Ferraro projects like Lamborghini Crystal’s Roach Motel, sounding like an unholy version of the music to a 1980s action movie, with seriously creepy audio samples of the members of the Heaven’s Gate cult talking about their group suicide. iAsia sounds similar to Wild World, though the vocoder vocals on “Casino Neptune” are something I don’t think I’ve ever heard from Ferraro before. Hacker Track sounds like a dub version of The Skaters, Ferraro’s long running collabo with Spencer Clark, adding a ton of reverb and phaser and water-in-a-bucket sounds to that group’s clattering drones.
You can brown Ferraro’s extensive catalog and purchase the good via Volcanic Tongue.