get it here:
release date:

May 29, 2020

  • Part II a (Space)
  • Modulated Feedback 1 (Space Solo 2)
  • II.V (Space Elements Vol. II)
  • III.III (Space Elements Vol. III)
  • I.IV (Space Elements Vol. I)
  • Part II c+d (Space)
  • Glove Touch (Touch 25)
  • III.VII (Space Elements Vol. III)

Open Space (2020)

Open Space is a Space Program retrospective.
I have walked far enough away from it now, and here is the time to pause, turn around, and look back at the whole thing.
Imperfection, just like performance itself, was built-in the Space Program (my whole output from 2004 to 2017). In their “meticulous imperfection”, every album in the Space Program had some tracks that i found somehow touched a higher level. To my surprise, this collection of such “pearls” offers a view of consistency and accuracy, in form and spirit, that is superior to any of these albums. In this view — of its, well, “open space” — the Space Program as a whole appears to have been a greater accomplishment than i believed it was.Although i have been “turning the page” since 2017, i would like to offer you Open Space as a lens to look back at the Space Program with me, already with Moon Field and Saturn in the landscape as transitional records, and before i enter new recording projects reintroducing the guitar, or sail ahead with the most advanced findings of the Space Program as they live on in the Space Quartet. I am greatly indebted to all the musicians who participated in these recording sessions.
Rafael Toral,
Regada, May 20, 2020


A Space Program Retrospective

1. Part II a (Space)
Space has 3 Parts, I, II and III, which are symmetrical in the sense that I and III were made from the materials into form (playing before composing), or outside-in. Part II was the opposite, form into materials or inside-out and became a kind of suite in 4 sub-parts (a to d). Somehow the arrangements and density of this central Part II acquired a sense of texture, balance and articulation that turned out to be a beautiful, stabilized core for Space.
This track features the white noise-based modular synth configuration and the glove-controlled sinewaves.
Space was a huge undertaking, it took 2 years to complete. It’s an orchestral environment of electronic instruments, at its thickest density it has the equivalent of 21 people playing. The final master was around the 60th version.

2. Modulated Feedback 1 (Space Solo 2)
I find a natural quality in this that reminds me of birdsong. Of course, phrasing is everything. This is one of my favorite “songs” ever recorded on this instrument.
It is played with a modular feedback circuit, with a theremin antenna controlling the amplifier and a joystick controlling the filter (which steers the feedback tone). It has a flute-like sound (“…not unlike the bamboo flute improvisations of Don Cherry” – The Wire) and a remarkable ease to produce melodic material. It works in a way not too different from automatic writing. Sometimes, as in some sections of Moon Field, there are passages that one could whistle down the street.

3. II.V (Space Elements Vol. II)
Like a suite, this long and complex track has a lot into it. Opening into a tapestry of cello tracks played by Praça, its centerpiece is a double-layered trade (a form of alternating solos), with Sei Miguel (pocket trumpet) and Fala Mariam (alto trombone) playing the main layer. At a different pace, i played another layer, with the MS2 amplifier feedback and the modular feedback.
The arrangement came together really well. There’s a lot going on, but lots of space for it all to unfold, unencumbered. My old friend João Paulo Feliciano surrounds the center with chord progressions on the Rhodes piano, Ruben Costa added sparse tones on a digital synth-like device and César Burago, brilliant as always, puts the rainstick to great use and his talent for drawing time roadmaps with claves is well present here. I love the full-bodied guiro twin take towards the end and the bell with near-infinite sustain.

4. III.III (Space Elements Vol. III)
Tatsuya Nakatani is a drummer and percussionist of formidable skill and intuition. He has this typically Japanese mix of sensitivity, intelligence and elegance. He sent me a recorded take to work with for the rhythmically predominant Space Elements Vol. III. I was amazed at the ultra-sharp accuracy of his understanding of “space”. It just sounded so effortless, suggesting for him dealing with silence in a highly articulate way is for him as natural as breathing. I added the raw energy and wild melodic-noise flights of the short-circuited MT-10 modified amplifier and i found a need to stabilize time somehow, so i brought in César Burago’s masterfully irregular metrics with a cowbell. I owe Tatsuya on this one. 😉

5. I.IV (Space Elements Vol. I)
Doubtlessly one of my most cherished “jewels” in the Space Program. A clear nod to the previous ambient work, the dance between computer sinewaves and the theremin-feedback (as in track 2) with a very similar, near-pure tone. The slow-moving nature of the fading, glove-controlled sinewaves and the more agile contours of the melodic lines from the theremin/ joystick modular feedback just merge so perfectly. This is the “heart”, core piece on Space Elements Vol. I, with some generous silence space at the center at its own center. The ensuing surge of a beautiful rising whirlwind of tones still gives me chills.

6. Part II c+d (Space)
Part II c in Space is one of my favorite tracks in the Space Program, with a twin bassline played with resonating sawtooth pulses on a strange swing. Electronic bells (with the gloves) and the bird-like feedback bursts give it a forward motion that moves in a way i don’t quite understand, but i love it.
Part II d is one of the weirdest tracks i ever recorded, with a little nod to Tozé Ferreira, deep in the “outer rim” and featuring the longest silence i ever recorded in a track. Somehow it all fits together naturally.

7. Glove Touch (Touch 25)
This is an early track recorded entirely on glove-controlled computer sinewaves, for Touch’s 25th anniversary compilation. Although it has a stabilized, consistent sound contour, it oscillates between a peaceful wash of sound and an eerie, unsettling mood. It’s this album’s only track outside the Space Program albums. Ryuichi Sakamoto used it in a mixtape some time ago.

8. III.VII (Space Elements Vol. III)
An exploration of a gong i own, with bass modulations captured by “scanning” the vibrating surface with a microphone (pretty much in a similar way as in Stockhausen’s Mikrophonie I, but that’s as similar as it gets). It has 3 inner parts with different configurations of rhythm patterns and attack qualities on the gong. But what’s special about this track is the phrasing on the modular feedback, here treated through a loud guitar amplifier with distortion and spring reverb. The phrasing turned out to have a quality of eastern-sounding trumpet, blasting like from a mountain into the desert. It is extremely challenging to come up with phrasing that works so well on such a vulnerable setting. Riccardo Dillon Wanke contributed piano chord progressions and César Burago some more of his exquisite playing on exquisite intruments. This instrument configuration sometimes appears in the Space Quartet. The gong too!

The Space Program albums (2006 – 2017):

On respective tracks, with thanks to all,
César Burago, percussion.
Rute Praça, cello.
João Paulo Feliciano, Rhodes piano.
Riccardo Dillon Wanke, Rhodes piano.
Tatsuya Nakatani, percussion.
Sei Miguel, pocket trumpet.
Fala Mariam, alto trombone.
Ruben Costa, synthesizer.
Rafael Toral, electronic instruments.
Collage by João Paulo Feliciano: I Dream of Cities in Colours #14 (paper collage, 112 x 74 cm), courtesy of the artist and Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art.
Layout by Helder Luís.
Typeface by Mário Feliciano: Stella, ©FTF 2000—2006.

NPL 029