As I wrote in last month’s Wire, I was genuinely surprised to see so many people walking out of Rafael Toral and César Burago’s set at the Présences Electronique fest here in Paris a month or so back. Several fine musicians of my acquaintance were among them, and I’ve since learned that some of my favourite journalists have also been somewhat underwhelmed by this latest chapter of Toral’s ongoing Space Program. Of course, if you associate Rafael Toral with the comfortable drones of Wave Field, chances are you’re not going to like this. It’s spiky, often confrontational, pitting him and his home-made electronic instruments (no, I won’t bother to list them all this time) against various invited guests, including the abovementioned Burago (percussion), drummers Afonso Simões, Marco Franco and Tatsuya Nakatani, Victor Gama (acrux, i.e. an assemblage of metal blades mounted on an acrylic plate played somewhat like a kalimba), Toshio Kajiwara (lapsteel) and Riccardo Dillon Wanke (Fender Rhodes) in eight relatively brief untitled (unfortunately, perhaps) pieces. It’s clear upon listening that Toral has mastered his instruments, but – I suspect – not entirely: there’s a refreshing sense of danger to it all, a rather thrilling feeling that one of these spaceships might suddenly lurch out of orbit and produce a feedback howl worthy of Donald Miller. And there’s a real sense of interplay within the ensemble, a willingness to develop and exchange musical ideas. I’m perfectly happy to call it “jazz”, though I know Toral has reservations about that term, coming as it does freighted with all kinds of expectation and prejudice, and see it as a distant Portuguese cousin of Patrick Gleeson’s work with Herbie Hancock (and a not-too-distant cousin of the late, great Michel Waiswisz’s pioneering experiments up the road in Amsterdam). It’s beautifully recorded, executed with precision and delicacy and sounds great, whatever you want to call it.
Dan Warburton, Paris Transatlantic