Saturday, November 01, 2014

Peter Van Huffel's Gorilla Mask's "Bite My Blues"

A mighty beast indeed is the music made by Peter Van Huffel’s “punk jazz” aggregation Gorilla Mask. Imagine the explosive intensity of Last Exit and the restless energy of Naked City, channeled with the precision and control of Rage Against the Machine. It’s a marriage made in Berlin, where fire-breathing saxophonist Van Huffel joined forces with bassist Roland Fidezius (who has since switched from acoustic to electric bass for its heavier attack) and drummer Rudi Fischerlehner, whose whirlwind of propulsive clatter and thump underpins and drives the proceedings.

Their second album, Bite My Blues, was recorded live on two consecutive nights at different venues in Toronto. From the furious opener “Chained,” through the extreme velocity of “What?!,” Van Huffel’s horn leads the way with brawny braying and skronky squeals. On “Skunk,” it plays hopscotch with the bass over an Ornette-ish theme, which gives way to a series of solos, culminating in a torrential one from the leader, the rhythm section racing alongside him every step of the way. On the title track, Van Huffel unleashes blood-curdling squalls over a crushingly heavy groove. “Broken Flower”’s rough-hewn lyricism flows seamlessly into a turbulent and tumultuous virtuoso showcase that is, indeed, “Fast and Flurious.” The closing “Z” matches an ominously ponderous engine room with some of Van Huffel’s most unfettered playing.

Gorilla Mask’s music – exploratory and ecstatic, challenging and visceral – invites listeners who are equally attuned to heavy rock’s metallic clangor and the nuances of improvised music to have all of their food on the same plate. Come for the thunder, stay for the lightning.