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.”
On the surface, Far Side Virtual’s cheerful exterior provides just the life-affirmations I welcome through these ever-so-gray days in my seemingly ever-so-limited corner of northern Europe; the modulated synth lines on “Google Poeises” are particularly uplifting, as is the playfully buoyant opener “Linden Dollars.” Beneath that exterior, though, lies something much more pointed and engrossing; indeed, Ferraro’s illumination regarding his facial reconstruction plan runs deeper than mere witticism.
Listening on my iPod, the immediacy of its relevance is striking. I realize that what I’m listening to is, in fact, actually listening to me, in turn listening to it, listening to me, etc. etc. and, all the while, simultaneously representing this dynamic as some technotranscendental utopian cosmos. More to the point, Far Side Virtual highlights developments in the ways that we consumers interact with our technological limbs (e.g., my iPod) and, in particular, the advancement toward a ‘post-human’ dynamic.
In a paper entitled “Reframing the Embodied Consumer as Cyborg: A Posthumanist Epistemology of Consumption,” Markus Giesler argues that “consumer culture should be epistemized as posthuman, a ‘hybrid marketplace matrix’ that no longer distinguishes between humans and technologies.” James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual perfectly illustrates, as Giesler asserts, that “technology consumption is, with Heidegger (1962), a fundamental ‘mode of revealing,’ that determines its ‘being-in-the-world’ rather than mere ‘tool consumption’ or ‘humaninteraction’ with the external world of bodies and objects.”
Track names like “Palm Trees, Wi-Fi and Dream Sushi,” “Google Poeises,” and “Solar Panel Smile” portray an egalitarian world in which life, and items of life’s consumption, are indistinguishably intertwined. So too, software applications uphold themselves with artistic potency, as in “Global Lunch,” which is composed in part with Skype login tones. Interestingly though, Ferraro’s portrayal of 21st-century reality masquerades under a synthetic cloak of retro drum machines and pad sounds, typically adding an element of nostalgia. Nevertheless, besides adhering to his familiar sonic longings and rather than dampening the message, Far Side Virtual succeeds in exciting the collective memory of that generation now so conjoined to its technological appendages.