It’s 1992. You sprint down a sidewalk through the streets of Los Angeles, raucous with the noise of revolt. You sidestep around a burning pile of debris just as it falls from a higher floor and smashes into the ground directly in front of you. You enter your apartment building and quickly scale the stairs to your floor. You slam the door behind you and turn on the TV. You blink, and you’re floating in front of a wall of TVs in a dark room. They turn on, one by one . . .
Los Angeles. It’s a city with layers upon layers of disparate culture woven together in an abstract collage, and its dark, potent history provides the foundation for this artist’s record. Skid Row is the newest full-length from New York-native, LA-transplant James Ferraro. The highly adept producer is equal parts experimental singer-songwriter and collagist dot-connector, and paints a beautifully charred portrait of the perplexing city.
These experimental compositions are stitched together with samples of LA’s bleak past, a time filled with harrowing news reports detailing corruption and riots. These choice historical glimpses provide a concrete narrative that threads through Ferraro’s otherworldly, funk-tinged instrumentation, while his distinctly dreary voice recites lyrical mantras that drip like molasses. It’s sonically inventive and eerily captivating throughout.
This record comes at an ideal moment. Amidst the current state of racial tension and police violence in our country, it has the space to illuminate and warn of the potential for history to repeat itself. Between the scenes of discord, however, the teeming life of the city lurks. These tracks are menacingly gorgeous, just like the home that inspired its creation. If you’re seeking conceptual, collagist experimentalism, this album is for you.
– stasi (@stasisphere)