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Rafael Toral - Space

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Artist: Rafael Toral

Album: Space

Label: Staubgold

Review date: Oct. 22, 2006

It’s likely not his final frontier, but Space is a new one for Rafael Toral. The Libson-based creator of guitar-based ambience began, in 2002, charting a course that was an almost complete departure from his earlier material, losing the guitar in favor of electronics (some built by the artist, some modified from existing plans) in what Toral characterized as his Space Program. This disc, his second on Staubgold, is the first to result from his new forays, a collection and collage of both live and studio material, a culmination of Toral’s undertakings over the past four years.

Space is an apt name for Toral’s most recent work, and its suitability is twofold: Toral’s musical canvas is much like that of deep space, a monochrome field upon which smaller fragments twinkle and shine, and also – more than ever before – Toral is working with silence in his work, exploring the space between and around the music he makes, and making this void as much a part of the music as the sounds that are heard. And whereas Toral’s previous work packed pathos into its drones, Space is of a colder sort, less evocative than its predecessors. Ambarchi-esque tones populate the foreground, along with erratic series’ of purrs and squiggles. The rather tacky synth/laser effect that opens the disc makes occasional (and unfortunate) appearances throughout Space, like warning shots fired from a neighboring craft. It’s the only sound, though, with a clear contextual link to the interstellar theme of the recording; this is to Toral’s benefit, since his exploration of space works far better on a more metaphorical level.

Toral divides Space into three untitled sections, and while the first two set the stage nicely, the third is where the disc truly hits its stride. While he doesn’t disavow the earlier tracks sterility, Toral crowds the music more than before, both in terms of the frequency of specific sounds and the interactions between them. A duo of brass instruments make an intergalactic appearance, and, despite their unquestionably earthly origins, acquit themselves well. As the track progresses, it falls more into line with its predecessors, concentrating on singular sound sources, and the disc ends with a smattering of miniscule granules of grit, the last remnants of the space junk Toral has jettisoned over the last hour.

Space represents the sort of aesthetic shift that can mark an important moment in an artist’s career. To this point, Toral was known largely for his guitar work, which operated within a particular aural context. With Space, he’s divorced himself entirely from these former concerns, redefining himself as a musician with new instruments and new techniques.

By Adam Strohm

Other Reviews of Rafael Toral

Early Works

Harmonic Series 2

Space Solo 1

Space Elements, Vol. 1

Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance

Space Elements, Vol. III

Read More

View all articles by Adam Strohm

Find out more about Staubgold

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