Packaged in an oversize sleeve with stunning imagery by photographer Heitor Alvelos (with art direction by Jon Wozencroft, of course), the latest CD by Portuguese artist Rafael Toral is a wonder to behold. Each of the ten tracks on this disc uses only the sounds from electric guitars (he catalogues them in the liner notes). Delicate shifts and shifting drones in each of these relatively short tracks create some wonderful atmospheres. Toral has an undeniable talent for creating self-contained moods and textures; each track is unique, developing in its own rhythm and direction, yet at the same time each carries Toral’s singular voice. The guitar only rarely sounds like a guitar, as in “Optical Flow”, or in the strumming of the closing piece “Mixed States Uncoded”. Instead, Toral’s art rests in the transformations of his sound source; roughness is transformed into gentility, a chord is transformed into a stunning drone. Silence and sound interact in these pieces to great effect; the listener treasures the continuous ebb and flow of this wondrous music. Highly recommended.

Richard di Santo