Simply put, one of the sharpest drums + guitar duets heard in these headquarters, here analyzed on a piece-by-piece basis. I tried to cobble useful descriptive words, jotting down written responses to the sounds.
“The Night Ocean”. Instant in-your-face approach, creation of a playground for the liberation of energies. Closely miked skins and cymbals at the forefront of Hemingway’s palette, McManus turning the initial distorted drone into clean picking that grows increasingly agitated, still maintaining legroom for the pair to stretch and stray. Stillness falls upon a combination of feedback and hiss.
“The Constants”. GH’s brushing across TM’s toneless utterances, rising tension, new components weighing in. Piercing and jarring timbres from an axe that battles for the loss of its identity, mainly successfully. Sturdy pulling of strings, the drumming becomes progressively nervous and muscular, then thing quieten up.
“The Glass Lake”. More unusual research around the dirtier types of acoustic resonance, beautiful cymbal job to create a background on the rarefied spikes thrown by TM, who seems to be looking for a synthesis between Derek Bailey and a slightly sweeter radicalism imbued with snippets of thematic thoughts and unwelcoming clusters.
“The Rush To Get There”. Additional angularity spiced by swells reminiscent of early Bill Frisell, but with a harsher edge; GH listens and acts through the immediate release of flurrying bursts punctuated – again – by a superbly resounding snare. He’s in “let-it-go” mode, yet ever ready to remain in charge of the overall drive; patient listener and macho at once. Stimulating fragments generated by TM’s smart processing seal the track, GH tapping on the toms until silence is reached.
“The Dry Land”. Grating noises, whispers and wordless vocalizations, escalating into clattering-cum-supplementary glossolalia. This might belong in the “ritualistic” area of improvisation without any strain. Lots of breaks, the ears “want to know”. Enigmatic stuff devoid of actual openings, giving an idea of barely contained virulence.
“The Disturbance”. Free-jazz gears, pungent staccato, convulsive glomerations and close intervals. Strapping percussiveness on both extremes, TM apparently interested in complementing GH’s rattling liveliness rather than pursuing a mental picture. When distortion kicks in, we’re back to square one. Potent music, enlivening, pitiless in a way; no concessions whatsoever. It ends with a fight where each tries to decapitate the other with single shots, or just get the nod with economical combinations. Nobody wins.
“The Amber Field”. Mini-pitches emitted via slanted-plectrum-on-fretboard techniques complemented by an intricately dexterous work on the drum set, inexorably growing in terms of rate of recurrence of the sonic events. Cultivated edginess, the pace becoming almost frenetic at halfway point, irregular rolls accompanying slashing chords and overdriven scars. Uncompromising till the last second, the couple slaps and rips the smiley, suntanned conventions of archetypal jazz duos to confirm that we always need danger and restlessness to move forward. -Touching Extremes (Massimo Ricci)
With its oddly open-ended title, Below the Surface of is also the most mysterious CD here. Hemingway is in duet here with guitarist Terry McManus, a regular collaborator who is also a member of Hemingway’s current quintet. McManus is a guitar explorer, drawing on both traditional and extended techniques in a style that’s nonetheless distinctively pared down, at once emotive, intense and vocal. The opening “Night Ocean” emphasizes the directness and intensity of his attack, isolated notes pulled from the fingerboard with a tone that’s raw and electric. “Glass Lake,” the most traditional piece here, has McManus playing his nylon string stereo guitar in a way that initially suggests the sound of flamenco guitar only to move toward the sound of a koto. He employs controlled electronics on “The Rush to Get There,” the title perhaps an ironic allusion to the presence of “backwards” sound. As with the other duets, Hemingway and his partner seem to grow increasingly close, his percussion taking on an unimagined flexibility. The music becomes ever more elemental, with Hemingway’s drumming increasingly exploring rates of interruption and the diffusion of linearity. “The Dry Land” is full of hollow pail and scratching, whisking sounds, blurring the notion of strings and electronics on the one hand and the drum on the other. The glassy guitar glissandos and dense drumming of “The Disturbance” lead to the concluding “Amber Field” in which the guitar sounds like it’s being played with sticks as the music assumes airs of mystery and menace, ending in a terrain utterly unlike that in which it began and confirming the genuine spirit of improvisation, the spark that drives all of these diverse dialogues. -Moment's Notice/pointofdeparture.org (Stuart Broomer)