Joachim Gies professes an interest in exploring "regions of inner hearing" by creating "a very high sensitivity to sound." His playing definitely reflects such aims; Gies pays unusually close attention to the sounds coming from his horns. Gies on this recording is miked very closely, so that every breath is audible, every key click resonates; like other solo saxophonists before him -- Anthony Braxton comes readily to mind -- Gies uses such devices as structural elements. He'll examine and ultimately exhaust the possibilities of a particular technique that might serve as the foundation of a particular piece -- the aforementioned key clicks are an intrinsic part of the title track, for instance. He also exploits stereo separation to good effect. The defining characteristic of "Under the Surface" is his disciplined use of multiphonics (the simultaneous playing of more than one note by "splitting" the saxophone's sound into its harmonic components). On some tracks, Gies "prepares" his instrument by adding hoses, mutes, and in one case, a trombone mouthpiece; on others, he plays along with a soundtrack consisting of what are presumably electronically generated sounds. These latter pieces are quite successful; the pre-recorded parts are particularly interesting, and serve to separate Gies from the avant-garde pack. His solo saxophone work, while not unprecedented (again, Braxton has pretty much done it all, solo sax-wise), is nevertheless substantive enough to stand on its own. Gies' ideas are reasonably fresh, and his execution is immaculate. It's rare to find a saxophonist so intent making the most of the smallest gestures.
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AllMusic Review by Chris Kelsey