I purchased the LP version (Taiga) of “Space Elements Vol. II” a few months before the promo CD (Staubgold) arrived in my mailbox. I was initially lured in by the album art, which features a minimal collage by João Paulo Feliciano, who also plays Rhodes piano on one of the eight collaborative pieces on the album. The color blocks are stacked against a mute, calm background, and I was particularly captivated by the blue block on the right hand side that hangs in the air with no support from the other blocks. This gravity and logic defying block, I think, exemplifies what Toral and his collaborators are attempting to sonically present. While he doesn’t refer to the sounds here as being categorized as “post-free jazz electronic music,” he does state that these pieces were created in such an environment. Toral is attempting to figure out where to go next, how to simultaneously move beyond two of the main traditions of avant-garde music, free jazz and electronic music, while remaining (necessarily) attached to them. The blue block is still connected to the rest of the structure, but it’s doing something that the rest of the corresponding parts are not doing. It’s still dependent on the larger structure, but it’s also attempting to break away in order to independently define itself apart from the whole.
If this is the case, it’s quite a bold project, and an undoubtedly radical and necessary one. Whether or not the album succeeds, “Space Elements Vol. II” produces an aural environment that is an absolute joy to be within. The instruments and strategies used by the eleven musicians who participated in these live and studio sessions (which include Evan Parker and Sei Miguel) are as follows: guitar, drums, tamborim, afoché, rainstick, bell, guiro, maracas, clave, vibraphone, violoncello, Rhodes piano, digital synthesizer, pocket trumpet, alto trombone, soprano saxophone, modified MS-2 portable amplifier feedback, modified MT-10 portable amplifier, delayed feedback resonance empty circuit, electrode oscillator with modular filter, sawtooth pulses, and noise bursts. The listener can expect to enjoy a seemingly infinite series of grand and reflective rooms that welcome free movement and exploration, following the fleeting sounds around the warm, colossal spaces. Unlike the majority of challenging avant-garde albums that force the listener to push their ears to the breaking point (like Zs’ “New Slaves,” for instance), “Space Elements Vol. II” requires more of a meditative, deep listening approach. The listener is compelled to do what the blue block is doing, and if s/he fails I don’t think it is the sounds that are to blame. 9/10 -- Elliott Sharp