Leiko Ikemura, Sven ‘t Jolle, Mai-Thu Perret, Sophie von Hellermann & Sybren Vanoverberghe
Burning palm trees, tinted windows, glazed hours spent traversing the sterile, globalised homogeneity of malls – James Ferraro’s works bring to mind a host of go-to associations, some not consistently applicable. Often lazily typecast as a ‘prankster’ by lesser journalists, his works nonetheless communicate a multi-faceted emotional and conceptual range between each release, albeit in a kind of detached, deadpanned manner. And so, to get you up to speed for his upcoming Utrecht show with Ducktails, we’ve cobbled together ten essential songs from his canon, cherry-picking exclusively from his relatively more recent output. The fact that each of the tunes included below originate from separate releases spanning a mere half decade is testament to both his prolificacy and his consistently dope standard.
Comparatively accessible, this tune wouldn’t sound amiss mixed in during a left-field club night. Constructed around a bass-heavy backbone, it bumps and grinds propulsively and, to those uninitiated, serves as a gentle introduction to ‘Rraro’s soundworld.
Calculatedly vacuous, ‘Dubai Dream Tone’ best encapsulates Ferraro’s most divisive work, both musically and semantically. Straddling the line between a blissful, consumption-narcotised present/near-future and a starkly glossy, interface-mediated dystopia, Far Side Virtual is essential, though not wholly pleasurable listening.
Airy synths, 808 hi-hats, autotuned vocals – all the radio rap ingredients applied in a disconcertingly sloppy, saccharine manner. SWAG, BITCH.
Where the production on his BEBETUNE$ project opted for deliberately lo-fi EQ abuse, Ferraro’s Cold mixtape draws from the same radio rap palette gone full HD. ‘Sentinel’ is wordless but stark nonetheless, its sparse arrangement placing his anguished vocalisations at the forefront.
Unbridled woe amid the filth, grime and alienation of NYC. Ideal for late night public transit and/or urban misanthropy.
Bass-heavy, slightly ominous nite muzik – play this during a wee hour commute and I guarantee you you’ll feel edgy.
Ferraro 1.0 operated on an entirely different conceptual basis to his current iteration, eschewing hi-def contemporary cultural signifiers for sleazy, guitar-based mind-meltage. ‘Moonshocked Dudettes’, amusingly dumb and coated in VHS haze, is a prime example.
COB = Coked Out Banker. Appropriately, it’s lustrous and pristine, with only occasional shards of feedback breaking through to betray the instability within.
‘Swarovski’, a presumably one-off collab with Hong Kong-via-London outsider Triad God, has us feeling all weird in an indefinable, discomfitting way. It seems unlikely to occur, but here’s hoping to more from these two.
A sonic monument to XTREME deodorants, energy drink-based identity formation and ultra-commodified #masculinity. It’s also a dope tune.
Ferraro-directed VHS masterpiece. Words cannot do it justice.
James Ferraro was initially slated to support Ducktails at EKKO, Utrecht on 28 May. That support slot has unfortunately been cancelled. Hope this walkthrough dried your tears a little.