General Fuzz

If more producers composing ambient breakbeats lived in sun-kissed California and jammed regularly with live musos, they might sound like this. But they don’t, which means James Kirsch aka General Fuzz seems to have this sound all to himself.

artist:
General Fuzz

country of origin:
USA

style(s):
Ambient rock, ambient breakbeat, progressive house, lounge, Balearic

decades active:
00's - 10's

essential releases:

  • Messy's Place (2006, www.generalfuzz.net)
  • Cool Aberrations (2007, www.generalfuzz.net)

Reviewed by Mike G

If more artists making ambient breakbeat (the UK DJ/composer Sasha, for example) lived in sun-kissed California and jammed regularly with live musos, they might sound like this. But they don’t, which means James Kirsch aka General Fuzz seems to have this sound all to himself. He loves the live element, building his elastic, funky grooves with a mixture of programming, composition and improvised jamming.

Two albums in his discography stand out. Messy's Place (2006) is his first mature work, a fantastic instrumental record of melodic breakbeat and chilled lounge. It's intricate, loose and funky. The album's first half is mid-tempo grooves sitting around the 120bpm mark which bare some similarity to the complex ambient breaks of Sasha's brilliant Airdrawndagger (2002). Except that Kirsch always places his melodies well forward in the mix, so even at low volume his pieces work well. His live organ, guitar and electric piano phrasings sometimes have a warm, jazzy looseness that echoes the Miles Davis most muted work, and his building of harmonies through layering feels effortless.

As with its predecessor, Cool Aberrations (2007) sounds surprisingly organic despite the drum machines. Many tracks start tentatively as if this was the first time he and his collaborators had played them, yet they morph into fully-fleshed-out pieces of music. The drum patterns this time around are usually fattened with the rapid patter of Indian tabla. Also thrown into the mix are various combinations of tabla, guitars, trumpet, Hammond Organ, strings, various pianos and some sensual female oohs and ahhs. The album is sunny and tuneful throughout; whatever the tempo, the soft-edged grooves remain swathed in the composer's trademark California glow.

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