Peter Van Huffel’s primal scream therapy outlet is called Gorilla Mask, a thrash metal jazz trio we previously summarized as bringing “both the Brötzmann and the Black Flag together into a tidy, compact package.” Immediately following the alto saxophonist’s Boom Crane project with Michael Bates and Jeff Davis, Van Huffel again turns to a different rhythm section of Roland Fidezius (electric bass, effects) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums) for getting his ya-ya’s out.
Bite My Blues (currently on sale via Clean Feed Records), picks up where the debut Howl! left off, delivering primordial outbursts with a hardcore punk body and an out-jazz engine. Performed live — the only way to play this — in front of a Toronto audience, it’s a set devoid of ballads and rich in bombast.
Fidezius’ thrumming bass kicks off the punk-minded “Chained” where Van Huffel reels off a series Arabic-styled lines before going off the rails. But group improv is always in play here as the bass riff changes and Van Huffel adjusts accordingly, finding a repeating figure as things settle down before band regroups for an encore of the thematic bass riff.
Managing to insert yet more ethnic music into this cauldron of doom, the main vamp of “What?!” is Slavic madness, and Van Huffel’s shrieks here can jolt you out of any slumber. As song moves into solo section, Fidezius’ bass emerges with fonky pedal effects and Huffel goes berserk. “Skunk” introduces itself with math-y head that’s really more bebop than math rock, and a bass solo almost immediately follows with no discernible meter. Van Huffel re-enters and it’s improv city, getting louder, faster and more urgent, a quick return to the head and just like that, they take the song out. A snarling, nasty-assed two note bass riff hovers over most of “Bite My Blues,” as Van Huffel emits harrowing, long notes and climaxes with an ear piercing solo before a return to the riff.
The glacial, three-note vamp of “Broken Flower” calls to mind Miles’ Bitches Brew-era “Feo,” but the three collectively move off of it to go exploring with building intensity before returning home. “Fast and Flurious” bears little resemblance to the version performed on Boom Crane until the comedic theme appears two-and-a-half minutes in. And finally, the distorted bass lines matches to the staggered beat of Fischerlehner’s drums, morphing into an “Immigrant Song” type of groove about halfway in, sending Van Huffel on his way. Eventually, things deconstruct into free form, culminating in tension release and a return to that groove.
Bite My Blues is madness, but there’s a method to this madness. Van Huffel sets the parameters wide, encouraging flexibility amongst everyone and it works, because everyone is so attuned to everyone else. From a punk attitude comes jazz aptitude; Gorilla Mask does it again.