Cool Aberrations

General Fuzz Homepage

Growing up in rural Arkansas left me with little exposure to quality progressive music. Early in life, my only three avenues for fashioning my musical identity were commercial radio, my parents’ dusty old LP collection, and the very real Beavis-and-Butthead style environment of young heavy metal hicks. So after getting my feat wet with some old Vivaldi, butting heads with Van Halen and abandoning the wasteland that was popular eighties rock, I was left to scour the fringes of musical culture, such as they were in the early eighties, for succor. The sad result of this was a long and fairly embarrassing relationship with New Age.

Its not that I regret my time spent zoning out to Jean Michelle Jarre. Ray Lynch was all kinds of fun when I was twelve, and arguably provided a few rungs in the ladder of modern pop and electronica. And you can actually get away with name dropping Tangerine Dream, everyone will nod and smile like you just told the story of your first clumsy, nervous expedition through “second base.” But while I may, at the peak (or pit,) of my new age exploration, have owned every Fresh Aire album ever produced, I keep those cassettes under lock and key, safe from the prying eyes of guests or potential romantic partners.

Gradually my tastes expanded, and even my lingering fondness for that new age sound translated into more exciting and socially acceptable realms like Brian Eno or Devo. And yet, a part of me always wondered, “Where could it have gone?” Had new age somehow kept pace with the stride set by alternative and indy music, what might we be hearing on our local college radio stations today?Some possible examples exist, bands like Low, Orbital, or The Postal Service especially, can be seen to have drawn a note or two from that ancient grab bag of bleeps and bloops.
General Fuzz marks, for me, the pinnacle of this exploration. The crystalline harmonics and complex yet precise orchestration that saturate Smooth Aberrations on once hearken clearly back to the innocent days of Mannheim Steamroller or Tangerine Dream, and yet so clearly brings their sound into the modern age. For me, General Fuzz took that next great step in both mood and arrangement, maturing New Age into a sound to be equivocally proud of.

I’ve always been fond of cool precision in music. When a song encourages you to sample and taste the fine staccatos and presto picking of every guitar string or synth hit, it invigorates the mind, like rolling the flavors of a good sushi roll around over your tongue. That is definitely part of the appeal of Cool Aberrations. Despite being individually produced electronica, you never get the sense that any instrument, or even any note, is simply placed to be mortar for the melody. Fuzz ushers this atmosphere along by including a variety of actual instrumental tracks throughout the album.
Fuzz himself labels the music as, “lush melodic instrumental electronica,” which I think is a fair assessment of the style. Though tranquil, it would be a mistake I think to refer to it as mellow or relaxed. Instead, it wanders somewhere closer to intelligent, almost inquisitive, encouraging the listener to wander into each track consciously, exploring every detail. As a result, it really is good for virtually any environment, from leisurely quiet afternoons to freeway driving. The music enjoys such an accessible detail to it that your conscious mind can’t help but attend it. Thus, while you might still throw a little Kitaro on in your private life, General Fuzz is someone that might actually end up on a party mix. At the very least, you wouldn’t turn red with embarrassment if it cued up while friends or important business clients happened to be about.

So if you, like me, went through an awful new age phase in your musical growth, and are looking for some kind of refined progression to enjoy, then Cool Aberrations is definitely an album for you. Frankly, unless you simply require that your music be, “this brutal,” I’d say that this album is worth anyone’s time. And don’t stop there. While I feel that Cool Aberrations is the peak of General Fuzz’s craft, he has several other albums to enjoy, and they paint, I think, a clear and wonderful picture of his growth as a musician. That’s part of the joy and ease of free music via Creative Commons licensed albums, one well worth taking advantage of as regards General Fuzz’s excellent collection of works.