Anthony Ferraro, who goes by Astronauts Etc. on stage, paid Madison a visit Friday night at Ruby.
Ferraro released his second album as Astronauts Etc., Living in Symbol, earlier this year. Critics praised the sophomore LP for its gentleness and present-day take on tropical sounds of the 60s and 70s by giving his unique take on the Information Age.
Unique takes serve as a staple of Ferraro’s musical career. Trained in a classical music background, Ferraro always looks to bring a classical element to today’s algorithmic and software-based sounds. A record encapsulating this concept was the standout Mind Out Wandering (demos) project following the original record just months prior in 2015.
“Writing a musical algorithm got me thinking more deeply about the future of music and how algorithmic music may become more prevalent and what that means for the soul of music,” Ferraro said.
In a simpler sense, Ferraro explains it as “tying human creativity to a machine.” On a surface level, this may seem like a sci-fi based album, but in Ferraro’s approach it’s something that sounds much more organic, and, for lack of better word, human.
For Ferraro, the uncertainty and complexity of the Information Age is something we must learn to understand. He sees it surrounding us, and on Living in Symbol he attempts to bring a sense of security.
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“I hope that people feel comforted, or a little less alone. There’s so much turbulence and indeterminacy in many different domains, whether it’s politics, the environment or technology, and they’re all tied up together,” Ferraro said.
Despite seeing these large societal connections and making such a grandiose statement regarding the creative process and technology, Ferraro’s music never feels overwhelming. Much of it feels gently poppy. It may seem weird that an artist with such profound ideas regarding the creative process takes an approach to something calmer and less overtly political, yet Ferraro’s background allows him to take on these issues with a unique perspective.
In fourth grade, Ferraro was diagnosed with a rare form of juvenile arthritis. When he was diagnosed with the illness, Ferraro was told the effects would fade away by the time he reached high school. Unfortunately, the effects continued throughout college.
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“In the middle of college was when it was at its worst, and I decided to kind of re-route my efforts from trying to be a classical pianist,” Ferraro begins, “to being a musician that didn’t have to be in the practice room hammering away for hours at a day.”
Ferraro was messing around with programming before his music career took the next step, another talent that fit within his physically strenuous activities. Once the pianist realized he could genuinely push out quality music, Ferraro had a positive mindset toward his diagnosis. Now he sees the limitation as a blessing in disguise, it has allowed the workaholic to move forward and pursue writing his own music on a less rigorous schedule.
The decision was the true beginning of Ferraro’s career as a musician. The west coast lifestyle didn’t last long as constant touring began to give him an endless supply of experiences across the world, playing a number of shows in Asia.
With his classical background, Ferraro missed out on plenty of the pop music canon. Working with artists such as Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundwick allowed Ferraro to learn the rich history of pop music while blending in his own classical background. The established knowledge of music has proven valuable, influences of any number of artists come to mind while listening to Ferraro’s play for Toro y Moi and when he performed as Astronauts, etc.
In his performance in Madison, Ferraro brought his unique musical blend with a touring band that “hit its stride” with their stop at Ruby.