Gorilla Mask

Brain Drain
Clean Feed CF 540 CD

By Ken Waxman

With the power of oil derrick pumping, Gorilla Mask’s Peter Van Huffel uses his baritone saxophone throughout to unearth subterranean textures, in order to extract robust dynamics that slam against Roland Fidezius' electric bass hammering and percussionist Rudi Fischerlehner’s comprehensive battering. All eight tracks composed for this Berlin-based band by Kingston, Ont,-native Van Huffel straddle metal force and improvisational exploration. Despite leaning towards the former, the trio never strays into excess.

Sonically defining the difference between a head banger and a Hoser on a track named for the Ontario taunt, the narrative of sutured bass and saxophone outbursts are almost too thick to be partitioned. But the drummer’s oblique ruffs and rebounds retain a whiff of the unexpected. In the same way, Fidezius uses effects to suggest ringing guitar-like licks on tunes like Barracuda; and the saxophonist sometimes turns from baritone rumbles or altissimo squeaks to airy alto saxophone trills.

Additionally the group is versatile enough to brush against bedrock funk on “Caught in a Helicopter Blade”, as reed honks, drum pops and string sluices up the excitement level. But the best demonstration of balancing insight and intensity comes on the extended “Drum Song” where intense kinetics radiate from Fischerlehner’s cymbal clashes, bell ringing and rim shots as electronic-fattened dual reed timbres and sluicing bass twangs steam roll the theme forward.

While Canada’s musical loss may be Germany’s gain, it has resulted in a notable and individual band identity.

-for The Whole Note June-July 2020