Critically acclaimed avant-garde musician, James Ferraro, will release his first "studio made" album, Skid Row, on November 13th. It's useless to try and convey the impact Ferraro has had on experimental music, from hypnagogic pop to vaporwave and now this — a foray into black metal ballads built on drum beats and references to rap music, similar to Dean Blunt's recent work but with more distortion.
Skid Row's songs began as poems inspired by the hellish nature of LA that Ferraro laments over with lines like, "hypnotized with the endless summertime / when angels get too much power / I can't lie, I just want the power," on "Thrash & Escalate". There's a hint of Prince's emotion and pain in "Purple Rain" on this particular track. You can feel Ferraro's heartache as his harmonizing is suppressed behind the torment of dark lyrics and metal riffs. Perhaps this is what it sounds like when doves cry in the 21st Century, amongst the brutal reality of human nature at its worst. The only difference is that in Ferraro's world, the purple rain has now become acid rain. As dark as this album appears, it also seems to hold a redemptive quality at its core. That could easily be an illusion that Ferraro's expertly crafted songs provide, but either way, Skid Row is looking to be another piece of "fine art" from one of contemporary music's most esoteric figures.
The Follow up
James Ferraro = 2Pac / Dean Blunt
James Ferraro’s Skid Row is the most bizarre and complex modern album I’ve come across in some time. It also stands as a piercing example of two genres: modern classical and neo-brutalism. Ferraro uses recent historical icons, such as OJ Simpson’s white Bronco and police brutality victim, Rodney King, to give his songs an immediacy that brings uneasy images to mind. Then, as the twisted director that he is, Ferraro uses funky bass lines, easy-listening sax riffs, and menacing verses to give these images a new life. Skidrow is beautifully composed but hard to bear unless you enjoy holding a heavy heart.
There are plenty of dark composers out there, but Ferraro has crafted such a vivid story with Skid Row that it goes beyond an album. Skid Row is more of a media collage, using computerized dialogues, News sound bytes, and various elements of music to show Los Angeles as the Gotham City that it really is. The scariest part about Ferraro’s epic is that it feels applicable to any major present-day American city. Listener beware: Ferraro intends to make you feel things with his music, and those feelings are anything but comforting here. He's giving his listeners an honest portrayal of what life is really like for many Americans. Hopefully, this album can turn people's hearts towards hope, in an effort to cast away the darkness it objectifies.