HIPPOS IN TANKS (G010002699014R, digital)
Those who think of James Ferraro as a hermetic and capricious composer, incapable of crystallising his prolific musical endeavours into a concise and understandable style, might have to change their mind now. The former improviser - the underground man releasing new age variations on cassette and heavy, morphine-infested psychedelic exercises on vinyl via Olde English Spelling Bee (whatever happened to that label ,anyway?) - the discrete sampler and ProTools wizard capable of welding thousands of unexpected noise samples into what sounded like a shifting radio frequency dial, has now managed to capture his sound into something resembling a pop song structure. “Condo Pets” features seven tracks, offering a preview to “Far Side Virtual”; the album Hippos In Tanks is supposedly releasing at the end of this year. Without exiting our hero's particular universe, each track refines and perfects his sound – above all, making it accessible for those who so far hadn't managed to enter his diffuse and milky world.
The best way to describe “Condo Pets” would be by juxtaposing it to “On Air” (2010) and “Feed Me” (2010): while on those records he seemed to pay tribute to the radio and AOR of the seventies and eighties, this new EP (and, by extension, the new album) is like zapping on a TV where every channel is broadcasting ads, series and films from the triumphant and optimistic eighties. That belle époque of polished synths, which would appear from time to time in police and young adventurers films. The zapping is swift (none of the tracks are longer than three minutes) and Ferraro exercises melodies and friendly harmonies, which are between AOR (“Life In A Day”), soft porn soundtracks (“The Secret World Of Condo Pets”) and TV commercial synth music (“Smoothies, Foodies, Flat Screens & Virtuality”). This style always gave the message that that era promised a future and technological progress – precisely because those promises are now detained, this is more emblematic than ever. “Condo Pets” is, in a way, a more liquid and abstract version - without vocals and with more atmospherics - possessing the nostalgic sound of Ford & Lopatin's album from a few months ago. Ferraro's new LP, therefore, is promising.