Jul 27, 2010

James Ferraro. Marble Surf.

If you're unfamiliar with James Ferraro...remember the guys in high school who planned to start a band and then change their name for every release, and it didn't matter if anyone knew how to play an instrument? James Ferraro actually did that. If he's most well known for anything (and he isn't), it's probably The Skaters. As a "solo" artist, he's had more identities than it's worth listing here. He's probably the only person who's more prolific than Acid Mothers Temple. You could spend a lifetime trying to track down all of his releases and never be sure you'd found them all, or if they were even the right ones. It can be pretty hit or miss, too, depending on your patience for lo-fi, scrambled tape messes of wasteland-psychedelic samples and alchemical keyboards and random noises that sound like they were rescued from a box of betamax tapes. That whole alternate 80's universe that bands like Wingdings, Sun Araw, Dolphins Into the Future, Infinity Window, Matrix Metals, et al are floating in? James invented it. I think he's kinda genius, but it's an acquired taste.

Except for Marble Surf. This is simply the most endlessly beautiful thing I've ever heard. In a post-post-Eno way, he's composed a slow-motion, ocean-sized waterfall of washed-out angelic choruses, watery steel drums, and dreamy synths that repeat the same basic structure for forty minutes (there are two tracks, but they're essentially the same piece of music). Eno proposed the idea of "holographic" music that would be indistinguishable from any other part of the recording no matter where you started listening to it. Marble Surf does it in a way that's gorgeously, almost psychedelically hypnotic rather than ambient.

At first it might seem like he's just set a brief snippet of music on repeat, but as you get drawn in it's clear that he's actually playing this. Musical cues come in at slightly different points on each loop, making it sound shiveringly, shimmeringly alive and organic, like light sparkling on water. Even when new instruments do arrive, it's so subtle and matched to the grand astral pageantry of the whole that you hardly notice they weren't there before. It's a cloud-floating heroin-basted rimjob from jesus in a Terry Reilly calypso dream. It's J.S. Bach for the polaroid-transfer, new-age tapes set. It's weightless and epic and magnificent and ecstatic and transcendent all at once, and it's the best fucking thing I've ever heard.

Marble Surf

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