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James Ferraro - Sushi

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Artist: James Ferraro

Album: Sushi

Label: Hippos in Tanks

Review date: Nov. 16, 2012

It’s a funny old world where a musician such as James Ferraro is deemed controversial. True, not many guys release albums as divisive as last year’s Far Side Virtual turned out to be, but the very fact that the record — and its place as The Wire’s No. 1 album of 2011 — should cause such consternation is beyond baffling. Far Side Virtual was a curious release, not nearly as heinous as its detractors seem to think, its main problem being that it didn’t match the pretentions of its creator, who once claimed it to be “post-nihilism.” My main issue with it was not the album per se, but more that its collection of post-1990s ephemera transformed into pop felt slapdash and poorly thought through, as if the ideas behind it trumped the actual conception of the album. And that’s something that will, I think, dog Ferraro’s career for some time. No release ever feels particularly considered.

Sushi could have been a chance to dismiss this charge, as it sees Ferraro in many ways going back to basics. There are no pretentious and lofty concepts at play here, just a collection of carefully crafted dance-pop songs that should appeal to just about any fan of the current hypnagogic/funky scenes. In the context of Ferraro’s career, that’s a good thing, as it allows him to focus on sound over ideas, hooks over clever samples and so on and so forth. And these 11 tracks certainly regorge with infectious tunes and easily-accessible dance patterns. From track titles like “Flamboyant,” “Condom” and “Bootycall,” it’s clear that cheerful hedonism is the theme here, as if Ferraro is soundtracking a night out and all the pleasures that can ensue. Equally, they display Ferraro’s trademark knack for funneling 21st-century vernaculars such as text speak, as demonstrated by the title “SO N2U.” The music is therefore suitably gaudy and upbeat, with shuffling beats, bright synth patterns and repetitive melodies propelling each track.

In 2012, however, all this sounds a bit faded in light of the similar but far more explosive works of the likes of Rustie and Zomby, whose kaleidoscope approach to post-dance music is both fresh and wonderfully compulsive. In comparison, Sushi sounds enthusiastic but slight, with generic synths and run-of-the-mill dubstep-inflected bass lines. Again, Ferraro sounds like he’s had a decent idea that could appeal to altered fans, but that he then recorded it all in a distracted rush, as if other ideas were already popping into his head even as he lay down these tracks. The result is that the latter all blend into one another, with only the tempo shifts from one to the other providing any sort of real variety, and even then it only highlights how dull the slower ones are.

By Joseph Burnett

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