Multitopia – James Ferraro

Post Author:

The Skaters’ James Ferraro seems to be on a completely different trip than most of his peers on the US psychedelic underground. While bands like Double Leopards and Robedoor, not to mention The Skaters, steep themselves in occultist mystique, James takes his inspiration from the tackier elements of pop culture. The Xeroxed back cover of Multitopia, one of a series of fresh CD-Rs released in Europe, depicts a bare-chested glamour model with James’s afro-rimmed face superimposed on top of her own, leaning against an arcade machine. Not a shaman or a sigil in sight.

The obsession with trashy pop culture manifests itself musically in Multitopia’s pseudo-M.O.R, Sunset Beach-style, synth-disco odysseys – the kind of pock-marked almost-there pop Ferraro explored on releases like Mavi Blackout and Dial 747-Creepozoid. As ever, the music stops short of being what it signifies. Its distorted, it lollops and stumbles, has moments of awkwardness where a drum loop extends beyonds the limits of a synth phrase; it’s pop that’s sick, crippled pop. This rubs up against mangled synth tone-float bliss-out, flat on its back with spiral eyes wide open, and a recurring musical motif; a cacophonous, clutterbunk ensemble of thuggishly thwacked roto-toms, drunken slurring organ chords and the random clanging of struck metal, sounding a little like a merry-go-round that’s spun itself off its axis and fallen apart at the seams, springs popping, unicorns on fire. All this is punctuated by TV and radio interjections: shopping channel “have a nice day” inanity, a newsflash reporting Howard Stern’s auction of a girl’s virginity, a woman’s voice asking “can that be real?”…

Multitopia is incredibly suggestive, the repetitions and juxtapositions so leading that you start trying to “decode” the music, to decipher its infernal logic. Such attempts at exegesis are always and inevitably red herrings, yet it is extraordinary how adept the music is at opening up channels of inquiry, sparking off chains of thought that send you burrowing deeper and deeper into it. Multitopia is not presented as a magical object and shuns the world of candles, midnight and the moon. Yet there is powerful magic at work nonetheless in the alchemical transformation of the cheap and nasty into music of infinite depth and richness.