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Rafael Toral - Space Solo 1

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Artist: Rafael Toral

Album: Space Solo 1

Label: Quecksilber

Review date: Apr. 2, 2007

Solo performance is one of the most exacting challenges any musician may face. Sure, any mope with an instrument can get up and play; but can he hold your attention, let alone move your heart or boggle your mind? For every Evan Parker, there’s a legion of guys who get change in their sax cases because people feel sorry for them and hope they’ll go away; for every Jack Rose, there's a battalion of strummers that bleed anonymously into the background.

The second volume in Rafael Toral’s Space Program is the antidote to the electronic version of this phenomenon — the dude sitting at a table clicking a mouse, tapping a key, or wiggling a knob, matching dreary sights to uncompelling sounds that can easily be traced to the known workings of a piece of software or gear. The Portuguese experimentalist made his own instruments, and made them so that he must visibly interact with them in real time; there’s no falling back on a digital loop when you’re activating a filter with a light, or dipping and weaving a hand-held, hotwired toy amplifier.

But such novelties are means, not ends; Toral uses them to create a setting for genuinely performance-based, improvisational electronic music. His tools aren’t entirely new; over a decade ago I first saw him balance a little toy Marshall amp like the one that appears on three of this CD’s five tracks on his guitar neck, using it like an alarm-clock-sized e-bow. But he’s modified its workings and familiarized himself with it to the point where it’s not a toy, but an instrument capable of remarkable nuance.

He obtains trills, decays, and tonal variations on the opening track “Portable amplifier” that one might expect from a wind instrument blown by a master. The oscillators and filters he wields on “Echo-Feed” and “Electrode oscillator” yield more familiar sonorities — by going back to the earliest elements of electronic music, Toral echoes its sounds — but he doesn’t put them to kitschy or nostalgic ends. “Echo-Feed” unfolds mysteriously against a silent backdrop, while “Bender” tears at the surrounding space as savagely as a feeding shark. Plenty of people say that they make creative music — Rafael Toral delivers it.

By Bill Meyer

Other Reviews of Rafael Toral

Early Works

Harmonic Series 2


Space Elements, Vol. 1

Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance

Space Elements, Vol. III

Read More

View all articles by Bill Meyer

Find out more about Quecksilber

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