Review Summary: drudgery, a light, transcendence
Everything feels meaningless. It takes so long to find purpose, and when it's there, it's gone just as quickly. I keep listening to project after project, trying to find the one sound that will make me want to get up and do something hard, like it used to. I turn it up, hoping against all logic. But I just keep sinking further into my pillow. A tar pit opens up beneath me and I slowly fall in. I am now surrounded by it, and I'm not strong enough to resist it anymore. I look at my phone until it recognizes me, tap the same five spots I always tap, and move my thumb up and down the screen, my expression unchanging. I soon accept my boredom and move on to the larger display, tapping the arrow keys back and forth. I grow frustrated with my inability to produce any more dopamine and swap back to the smaller one. All the while, the sound plays in my ears, and just keeps playing, over and over again. No matter what I hear, what I see, what I feel, I still want to die. Sometimes I wonder if I even like music any more. It's 2:07 PM. I still have to wait about ten more hours before I get a break.
But then, for reasons I don't understand, the tar gets thinner, and colors itself a shade of light cyan. It's turning into water. I'm in a bubble. James Ferraro's Primavera Sound 2012 performance is playing. It launches ("launches" being more accurate than "opens" as a verb to describe this - it sounds like a computer game from the 2000s) right away, with a vocal "yo" or "go" sample, birdsong, quickly joined by a high-pitched synth. The lead melody does its own thing for a while and is then accompanied by what I imagine a growling butterfly sounds like and some computer clicks and jangling percussion, eventually followed up with some vocal cries. I am struggling to describe this in ways that in any way clarify exactly what is so great about it, but maybe this will help - have you ever been playing an instrument, creating music, etc. and happened upon a fun little loop? Then, naturally, you start to expand on that loop, forming your own miniature jam session where everything, for the moment, sounds perfect, and your potential feels infinite? That's what this is like. It's that feeling if you were able to not only recreate it whenever you wanted but it sounded just as good as the first time, and you lost none of the magic. Magical is a great descriptor for Live at Primavera Sound 2012
, because I cannot tell you how much better this makes me feel, and how little sense it makes that it does.
I've heard and read a lot about the concept of flow, the idea that in order to be as productive as you want to be, you need to balance certain elements of your life in order to create a perfect rush where time seems to pass quickly and you get a lot accomplished. I have felt that sometimes, most commonly out of, as far as I can tell, pure coincidence. But Ferraro has somehow managed to capture it. Almost the entire project feels like this, like energy is channeling through you in one focused and pulsating direction. But there's a moment, about 15 minutes in, when everything stops except a few strings. It's breathtaking, heart-stopping - I can't be hyperbolic enough. The butterfly growl comes back, soon joined by many of the other elements, and finally, the drums. This is trance at its finest, leaving you floating. When I listen to this, I feel like I've transformed into something infinitely larger than myself, like I've seen God and They are sound. I know this seems insane. I promise, I made fun of the Pitchfork Kid A
review too. But I think I get it now. There's something so meaningful about finding the music that feels like it was made for you, the music that brings you to a better dimension in your imagination.
Eventually, it has to end. The last few minutes are progressively less and less gorgeous (although these vocal samples contrast with the majority of the piece, they are still necessary and powerful in their own way), and ground the listener to reality. But even if I'm back in the tar, I still remember what it was like to not be, and that's enough for me to continue. That's what makes it worth it to listen, over and over again.