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  • Born

    7 November 1986 (age 32)

  • Born In

    Rochester, Monroe County, New York, United States

James Ferraro (born November 7, 1986) is a musician, composer, producer, and visual artist who helped pioneer the hypnagogic pop and music genres, and whose work often explores subjects such as hyper-reality and consumer culture. His first professional gig was as a member of the Californian two-piece The Skaters in the early 2000s. He received wider recognition when his polarizing 2011 album Far Side Virtual was chosen as Album of the Year by The Wire.

Ferraro comes from a musical background. His father was a musician, DJ and record collector while his mother was a singer. He began making instrumentals in high school with the program MTV Music Generator (1999). When Ferraro was 18, he moved from New York to San Diego, California, where he met Spencer Clark. He explained that "we had this conversation and it ended with us collaborating on visual art and paintings and stuff together."

When Ferraro was 20, he formed a drone noise music project with Clark called The Skaters and the two recorded music for a year under the moniker. After a year of recording, they began touring around the country and issued releases from that year of recording. Physicalities Of The Sensibilities Of Ingrediential Stairways (2008), issued on Eclipse Records, was the last record released by the Skaters.

Ferraro has created music since the mid 2000s, initially with Spencer Clark as The Skaters. His style has developed widely since, ranging from drone music, noise and sound collage music with a mystic lo-fi ethos, to new age, alternative R&B and contemporary classical with a hi-fi touch.

He is also known for uniquely dealing with modern life; for example, themes of his albums range from consumerism, cybernetics, hyperreality, post-9/11 New York, and lo-fi counterculture. His 2011 work Far Side Virtual is often credited for helping to spark the development of the internet-based micro-genre vaporwave, although he has not considered himself a part of its history.

In a 2009 issue of The Wire, David Keenan characterized Ferraro as an progenitor of an emerging post-noise music style dubbed "hypnagogic pop", in which memory and nostalgia for retro formats (especially 1980s recording technology and culture) acted as a defining characteristic.

Red Bull Music Academy described the concept of Ferraro's albums as regarding the "dark underbelly of masculine culture in the digital age." Most of Ferraro's records take place in dystopian environments, focusing on the consequences of consumerism. According to Ferraro, the consumerism concept of his albums came from his interest in "signs" and "symbols" and the fact that they lose their identity due to "excessive repetition." His works have been compared to theories of French sociologist Jean Baudrillard, who stated that only "symbols" and "signs" have destroyed any sort of real meaning and that human activity is "only a simulation of reality."

The sounds Ferraro uses are those that humans encounter but are not aware of. These include television jingles, cell phone ringtones and ATM machine noises. Robert Grunenberg of Ssense characterized the sounds as "communicational tools" between humans and electronics that are "informing, warning, or pleasing" humans. He also writes that "the shelf life of electronic audio rarely surpasses that of your average milk carton. And so, his compilations become a nostalgic sound archive of the near-past." Overall, Grunenberg analyzed that concepts of Ferraro's sound palette was that "as much as we are living under the dominance of our visual culture, we are greatly affected by the powers of our audio culture as well." Ferraro symbolized the nostalgia element that comes out of these "near-past" sounds as "the decline of American prosperity, a ghost of a once-superpower that is dying."

In making an album, Ferraro says that he comes up with a "vision" or an imaginary visual picture of what it will be. He explained in a 2012 interview, "I try not to be overly conceptual about what I’m doing. You can contrive it to a point where it gets too heady. Music wise, I try to be careful."

When interviewed by Bomb magazine on the subject of sampling in 2013, Ferraro said, "I sample my own sources of sounds. I use AT&T Natural Voices and text-to-speech generators so it's all original content.

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