The description of House of Snuzz had me at “doom jazz”. While not quite in the same vein as last year’s Evil Genius release – which featured a guitar / tuba / drums trio – this new release from The Gate once more proves the versatility of the tuba when in the right hands. And here, the hands are those of Dan Peck, a seasoned improviser and classicist, who has recorded or performed with Nate Wooley, Anthony Braxton, Zeena Parkins, and Tony Malaby just to name a few. Joining Peck are bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Brian Osborne, who both have equally impressive resumes (Peter Evans and Brandon Seabrook for the former, Daniel Carter, Frode Gjerstad, Oliver Lake, and Joe McPhee for the latter).
Consisting of two long tracks, House of Snuzz does not overtly show its metal influences aside from the distortion and effects overlaying Peck’s playing. In particular, Peck takes the tuba in a number of directions that would have caused its creators to think twice about their invention. He generates wavering and shifting low-frequency wails and grinding, often sounding like a cross between an electric guitar and a keyboard rather than an ostensible part of a brass section. Peck goes outside and stays there, combining extended techniques with processing.
Blancarte and Osborne are a solid free-improvising rhythm duo, each doing more than his share to gain the listener’s attention. Blancarte’s playing is notable in that he offers up a non-stop series of notes from up and down the fretboard, often playing so fast that his individual notes blend into virtual chords. This is apparent on the second track, Psychedelic Rays, where he practically plays a continuous lead under Peck’s unconventional experimentation.
Even if the doom jazz moniker turns you off and you’ve never met a tuba that you liked, don’t hesitate to give House of Snuzz a try. While the themes on the album may be dark from time to time, you cannot avoid the feeling that its ultimate nature is tongue-in-cheek – that Peck, Blancarte, and Osborne had a few boatloads of fun pulling it off – a wink and a nod coupled with first-rate musicianship.