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Music Review: General Fuzz – Soulful Filling

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The smoothing ebb and flow of ambient electronic skates the edge of chillout/downtempo so often that the subgenres often bleed through each other, with influences crossing the lounge floor to come together in soothing ways. Soulful Filling is the fifth release by General Fuzz, an ambient, downtempo producer who, rather than offer his music for sale, chooses to give it away. Now every concert has someone out back handing out poorly recorded demos of half finished songs, but when a piece of music sounds as well done as any professional recording out there and is free, well that’s a deal you cannot pass up.

The lush, ambient downtempo (or ‘lush melodic instrumental electronica’ as its described on the website) of General Fuzz is not the brainchild of an Englishman staring across a bleak landscape of barren hills and foggy seas. Rather it’s the brainchild of James Kirsch, an Ohioan who may have stared across the decaying factories of the Rust Belt, but nevertheless embraced the new opportunities afforded by the latest in recording software and technology to create ethereal collections of sounds and beats. To call them songs is a stretch, as it is for most chill out. It’s not the afternoon, nor the morning commute, rather these sonic templates offer up the perfect canvas to paint an afternoon, or a late evening, or even a blissful Sunday afternoon.

Kirsch originally went under the moniker DJ Messy and handed out his music to friends who spread the news of his material through word of mouth. In 2005, he burnt 500 copies of his third CD, Messy’s Pace, and handed them out to the strung out hippies and strung out hipsters at the Burning Man festival. The music is made for that kind of place as easy as it is for a suburban strip mall Pilates studio. The one thing about good downtempo is that, like good jazz, it crosses audiences. Everyone needs a way to calm, and it’s far easier to find common ground in soothing sounds than what to get up and dance to.

Soulful Filling adds some unique twists to the genre, incorporating some instruments not usually found in electronica, namely steel guitars and violins. There are some sparse vocals as well. The visceral experience is enhanced by Kirsch’s willingness to push the boundaries and expand the notion of what ambient and donwtempo are. And that’s ultimately what makes good music, well good. It’s either doing the same old thing extremely well or making it sound just a little fresh. Soulful Filling might not be the music you listen to during your morning workout, but it might be just the thing for the after-workout sauna.

To get General Fuzz's music, go to his website.

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About Scott Deitche

  • Scott Deitche

    One correction- Kirsch grew up in Massachusettes and went to college in Ohio.

  • Nice review. General Fuzz has been a favorite at Echoes for years. Regarding your correction: You might want to further correct that James is actually a San Francisco-based musician and most of his music has been made staring out at Golden Gate Park.