A Noise Transformed: Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro at the Independent, San Francisco
Written by Ronny Kerr
An abstract, prose poetry review of the experimental performances by electronic musicians Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro at the Independent in San Francisco on Friday, November 27, 2015.
It's Black Friday. You can tell because you're sipping warm black tea in a garden of delete, reading in real-time about a white terrorist shooting cops and killing innocent people at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. You dread the inevitable fringe tweets hailing the fetus-avenger as a hero.
It's Black Friday. You can tell because you're pushing a shopping cart down the street. You join a throng of strangers also pushing shopping carts toward the Independent, each prepared to hand the man at the door 25 dollars, American. Each prepared to be swept away by sonic palettes inspired by massive brick-and-mortar retail stores.
It's Black Friday. You can tell because the crowd around you is 90 percent white and 90 percent male and 90 percent dressed in head-to-toe black. There is a drone. There is a man standing by himself in an ironic old man sweater decorated with half-limb-length color swatches. There is a man standing pale in a black trench coat. There is a drone.
It's Black Friday. You can tell because you've ordered a fernet, that dark herbal concoction only imbibed by dumb kids drunkenly asserting their love of San Francisco and pretentious 30-somethings who think they know the purpose of a digestif. The bartender pours the drink into a micro-sized plastic cup, like the one that comes complimentary in a package of Robitussin. A machine fills the room with fog.
It's Black Friday. You can tell because when James Ferraro takes the stage, he chooses to kick off his set with blaring robot voices, male and female, advertising "24 hour fitness" and "soy lattes." Commercials. Newscasts. Live media coverage from Skid Row. Police sirens.
It's Black Friday. You can tell because the police sirens continue howling even though we're not outside. Aren't we safe inside a San Francisco music venue? No. Paris taught us we can die here.
It's Black Friday. You can tell because the disco ball isn't spinning, even though deep, soulful bass guitar fills the room. Still, someone is dancing. Something between the heavy metal drumming, organ drone, and purée of noxious sounds rouses one lonely soul to start headbanging as he clutches the stage. Elsewhere in the crowd, a couple of guys do the same.
It's Black Friday. You can tell because Ferraro ends his set apocalyptically, poetry lifted away by helicopter. An ancient echo jams itself through your skull: "Our music is just a reflection of who we are, and who we are is what we hear. So I hear a lot of modern music as being the urban environment, the noise just being transformed."
It's Black Friday. You can tell because your decapitated head has been reattached to a cable, fastened to a machine, and rolled through an industrial daisy carnival in the desert. Oneohtrix Point Never has taken the stage; he wields a pixelated sword from Final Fantasy and chants incantations in a voice reminiscent of GLaDOS.
It's Black Friday. You can tell because this experience resembles a major motion picture adaptation of a girl's video game walkthrough she uploaded to YouTube. Following the fiery discharge of 30 rounds of background music, a brief silence reverently waits for the machine gun to be reloaded.
It's Black Friday. You can tell because nobody seems especially amazed that this avant-garde ambient, experimental drone, industrial vaporwave, electronic, plunderphonic maestro still starts and stops 5-minute segments of sound, and then waits for applause before doing it again. These are called “songs” and, in sum, they comprise a "set."
It's Black Friday. You can tell because you're in the VIP area of someone's living room, hallucinating so profoundly from a dose of Salvia divinorum that you've convinced yourself that you're nothing more than a 3D-modeled jaw floating in a puddle of blood, singing to itself: "become a gun... don't sex the nun... slaughter everyone... anxious to destroy them all... God is not fun."
It's Black Friday. You can tell because you keep asking the computer, "if I am made of steel, then tell me how do I feel?" The computer responds by dropping you into a psytrance breakdown for eternity, doomed to never reach the drop. Even Sisyphus and Tantalus pity your fate.
It's Black Friday. A monsoon develops. Piercing high frequencies and rumbling low ones. Your head feels like it may explode. It might. You find some solace in the final boss staircase organ, herald of some impending end. A vision of caskets lowered into their compressed image file graves.
It's Black Friday. You know because you're not let off easy. A crack opens, a way out from the gnarled tree trunk of distortion squeezing your mind like a vice. Then you're suddenly dumped off a cliff side at a near perfect right angle.
The clock strikes midnight, and you exhale.
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