HUMAN STORY 3 by James Ferraro
Genre: Modern Classical
Favorite Tracks: “Ten Songs For Humanity,” “Individualism,” “Market Collapse,” “Security Broker,” “Anthropoceniac,” “Immanent Cloud,” “Plastiglomerate & Co”
A hard left turn from 2015’s SKID ROW, James Ferraro returns with a self-released concept record musing on “humanity’s inability to live up to machines programmed to reflect human virtue”(sic), via musical commentary not unlike his 2011 release FAR SIDE VIRTUAL. However, rather than simulate an autonomous market and overwhelm the listener with stimuli, HUMAN STORY 3 opts to illustrate a society of automated humanity, gracefully weaving classic western orchestration with a composition style that is simultaneously self-aware and oblivious.
Ferraro’s most notable work takes a snapshot of the current situation (FAR SIDE VIRTUAL), as opposed to a picture of his surroundings (NYC HELL 3:00 AM and SKID ROW). FAR SIDE VIRTUAL was just as much a plasticine, deconstructionist pop, ringtone record as it was a painfully accurate depiction of where western society was actually at, in contrast to the fantasies of past futurisms and projected dystopias. HUMAN STORY 3 takes this a step further by clarifying the image, amping it up to HD, and removing the sci-fi quality that muddled the message before. This time, there isn’t a hint of nostalgia that could obscure the fact that this is meant to be a representation of the now, not the current image of the past or the past’s image of the future (for either, see: vaporwave).
The opening piece, “Ten Songs For Humanity” is the most ethereal of the bunch, featuring a warm, deep synth accompanied by a choir, and light orchestration, all acting in a clockwork formation. Both natural and artificial elements complement and work with each other, rather than compete. In fact it became difficult to tell whether the bulk of the orchestral work in HUMAN STORY 3 was artificial or if Ferraro actually had real human beings play these pieces.
A restrained version of the corporate musak-influenced stylings that were slathered on FAR SIDE VIRTUAL, combined with a production quality similar to Oneohtrix Point Never’s R PLUS 7, all expressed through what seems to be a mixed-orchestra, places HUMAN STORY 3 at a precipice of total cognitive dissonance and euphoria within the singularity. The panic of “Marketphagia,” “Individualism,” “Security Broker,” and “Neotenous Smart Car” is balanced by “Ten Songs For Humanity,” “GPS & Cognition,” “Anthropoceniac,” and “Immanent Cloud.” There is a lurking discomfort produced throughout the record, possibly a product of denial for the present as what it is — what it has become — or rather it could simply be a product of Ferraro’s unabashed embrace of a soulless writing style in juxtaposition with comforting, familiar instruments and textures, going beyond parody to a point where HUMAN STORY 3 ends up sounding like it could actually be from a Sims game or a Pixar film. The only thing holding it back is an automated voice referencing Ikea, “Buy now, pay later,” and “Mobile Payments,” and occasionally following “Starbucks” with “collapse” or “coffee on the freeway”; there’s even a choir angelically singing “on the freeway” at the end of “Anthropoceniac,” before leading into the chaotic “Neotenous Smart Car,” which is peppered with “oil spill,” “GPS,” “oil slick on the freeway,” and “high prices way,” among many other indecipherable phrases.
HUMAN STORY 3’s only drawbacks stem from its homogeneity, though for an album with lyrics ironically listing homogeneity as an achievement, and a cassette release that would seamlessly run the record track to track, this might just be excusable. As intensely conceptual as this record may be, it manages to retain its listenability and is a much needed meditation on the current state of humanity — and its near future.