BODYGUARD - Silica Gel

Love him or hate him, James Ferraro is one of the most intriguing characters in modern music. He has been involved in everything from punk to kraut to drone and, as last year's Far Side Virtual, a fantastical trip through a psychedelic, postmodern virtual reality, demonstrates, has shifted towards a dense, cerebral electronic music bathed in the internet and heavily dosed with current pop music. Silica Gel continues this idiosyncratic trend with a vengeance, as Ferraro wades through a pool of 'Rude Boy' samples, icepunk allusions, metallic timbres and lo-fi cloud rap. Silica Gel is an exercise in repetition, with songs often containing a single loop with subtle variations and additions, creating vivid sonic landscapes and deep grooves.

Even within this framework, Ferrarro shows his penchant for bringing pleasant listening out of highly abstract and experimental productions. 'E-Cig' is a perfect example - an overwhelmingly weedy, murky jam, soundtracking the landing of a UFO, signalling the landing of the alien album. Ferraro has situated himself in the outskirts of music's fringes, but this tune shows that he still has the ability to engage the listener through catchy phrases and warm sonics. 'Dry Ice' is a nod to the burgeoning and previously mentioned icepunk movement. The synths sound like the biting winds of the Arctic, creating a freezing ambience which encases a slowed, chopped n screwed hip-hop beat and thick, gloopy, low-end. 'Fatal' sounds like it could have been created in an industrial estate, all big metallic synth lines, clanking chains and watery drips and drops. It evokes the too-stoned drawl of a Hype Williams song with its overload of fuzzy echoes and delays and its detuned retard-rapper sample. The album sometimes has you stopping and thinking 'how the fuck did he come up with this and pull it off?' 'Acid Rain' is one of these moments, it is a deluge of eclecticism, a postmodern sonic spew that just doesn't stop splattering multicolour on the ground. Wacky marimbas, vocal chords, drum bursts, piercing twinkles and default horn blares make up the definition of the cut'n'paste schizophrenia that Ferraro has come to be known for.

The album does have its weaker moments - songs like 'Raiden' and 'Turbulence' don't quite work and take the repetitive experimentalism into areas that verge on boring - but these can be excused in such far out territory. 'Blu Smoke Rings' features a twangy wind chime melody, a haze of caustic white-noise glitches, what sounds like a rusty trash can lid for a cymbal and a set of heavy death synths. This is the mind of a New Age yoga instructor gone mad - those chimes on the door of his studio have rattled one too many times. On 'Liquid Metal' a beautiful guitar sample drifts over booming sub throbs, floating vocals and a primordial drum machine. All the elements come together to create something greater than their parts, into a new area of vibe and sonic texture - one removed, for once, from reality and planted in the virtual, in the wondrous unknown.

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