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James Ferraro
Suki Girlz Alexander Iadarola , July 10th, 2014 19:13

Suki Girlz, the Soundcloud playlist/Mediafire file [read: album] James Ferraro released last week without warning via a fictional Instagram account, suki_ girl_, reeks of disposability. The tracks are low quality – 196 kbps – and very roughly mastered, the digital audio workstation equivalent to "lo-fi." This release is by no means the first time he's dealt with the theme of trash or waste — it's something that he has continued to work with for years, from breakout work Far Side Virtual right back to the "hypnogogic pop" he made before he began composing primarily with a computer.

With the transition from analog or acoustic instruments to digital in mind, I'd like to take a moment to think about what exactly we mean by "trash." It doesn't signify what it used to: physical, tangible things like sewage, oil spills and eggshells. Trash in its empirically observable manifestation is something altogether changed now, something it has never been before. While trash used to be something more local, something you could point to, today it is what philosopher Timothy Morton calls a "hyperobject": an object too big to be sensible. Capital is an example, the Internet is an example, and global warming is Morton's most pertinent example. While rubbish dumps give the illusion that our waste can be easily disposed of, there's no escape from global warming. Our carbon emissions are having an effect everywhere.

Thinking about trash in regard to Suki Girlz, I want to focus on its haptic dimension – that of touch. There is almost nothing to touch in or on this record: it is unsubstantial, uncarefully produced, and evasive of comprehension. Dragged into iTunes, the songs have no artist name, while on Soundcloud the artist is credited as "user703918785," a variation on the generic username of spambots endemic to the site. The album's Instagram account was uploaded with a handful of pictures (most of them slight, off-the-cuff variations of the same edit) before they were deleted. Indeed, the music itself, almost easy to forget in one's encounter with this work, sounds "unfinished." The tracks are spare, forgettable.

It is within the characteristics of the forgettable nature of these songs though, that Ferraro's artistry shines through. He takes familiar production tropes, tropes particularly familiar to the kind of music found on Soundcloud, and employs them knowingly, adjusting the frame just enough, pronouncing certain instrumentation and creating eerie moods, so that the experience of these songs becomes uncanny. Some of these tropes are pattering, Zaytoven-esque, low bit toms, generic "lush house chord" pads, as well as the overall generic trap music sound (with emphasis placed on the erasure of its social context in its bland proliferation on Soundcloud.

A handful of these tunes would work in the club, albeit a different kind of club than those we are used to. Its agenda would be to nourish the user's (or clubgoer's) distractedness rather than treat it as a symptom to be overcome, to encourage and carefully articulate a nullified state. The allure of immemorability, the will to forgetfulness: this is a theme Ferraro points toward here. It is undeniable that something about this disposability feels good. Of course, Ferraro finds a lot to critique about the allure, particularly in its relationship with capital as content (i.e. web content.)

Ferraro illustrates how the economy of content has homogenising effects on subjects, where a stay at the W Hotel and "blue eyed contacts" (sound clips found on the album) become desirable standards. To further elaborate this "contentness" of capital: in networks where content is what's traded, is there not a haunting, gaping expanse of non-content that never was, or was only relevant content for a moment, that gets created? Is this non-content an excess, incommensurable with exchange? Might this make up a portion of the "trash" Suki Girlz deals with?

There are more obvious examples of today's trash pertinent to Ferraro's aesthetic: the "trash" or "recycling" bin meant to sustain your computer's ecology, the endless stream of data, so much of it dust in the ether, unless it helps a data-gathering algorithm. But there is something else that he really seems to get at here in terms of "trash": by demarcating a space of insubstantiality and disposability, he makes clear the ways in which you just can't get a hold on it, because it is uncannily, almost unobservably everywhere.