Foxy Digitalis

Rafael Toral is in it for the long haul. The Portuguese improviser has for some time been planning his “Space Program”, a huge, multi-faceted project comprising performances and albums that will keep him busy until at least 2012. Commencing last year in most dramatic fashion with the epic “Space” on Staubgold, Toral made it quite clear that the album was merely the opener in a huge series of ten solo albums. “Space Solo 1” is the first of these records.

Recent news from Europe report that “performances” of laptop electronics — some guy 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” (Bill Meyer in Dusted) — have become laughably passé. Good. And Toral eschews such anti-aesthetics. Even better. He makes his own instruments in such a way that he must visibly interact with them in real time. Great. Can he play them worth a damn? He’s spent years refining his steez, becoming the master of his D.I.Y. instruments and their associated extended improvising techniques and to all intents and purposes, he can make them do whatever the hell he wants.

So does it sound good? Does it what. Want a synthesizer that plays like robot-Evan Parker on speed? Check. Want the sound of a bunch of cheap op-amps twittering to each other? Check. Want to hear the sound of a massacre at the Rubber Duckie (TM) plant? Check. Want to hear the sub-atomic conversation between a bunch of clouds in an electrical storm? Check. Want to hear analogue spring reverbs making love in a prolonged MDMA-orgy? Check. Want to shake your head again and again at the sheer playfulness and inventiveness of it all? Check. It’s like he’s spent a whole bunch of time building a machine which runs on a twenty-five yr-old 8-bit microprocessor and which he’s programmed to play all the “Early Electronic Music’s Greatest Hits” as well as Olivier Messaien’s bird-music through a couple of speakers he ripped out of a old transistor radio. And now, bored with its repertoire, he’s teasing and irritating the thing with a pink noise generator and a hairdryer with a torch shining through it. Uh.. that is to say, timeless, and at the same time totally up to the minute. Amazing.
Stephen Clover (15 May, 2007)