This is my first exposure to Toral, and the experience is an exciting one. This CD is exactly my cup of tea, in that it consists entirely of live improvisations recorded direct to tape – totally human music. Rafael is Portuguese, and a very intriguing guitarist indeed. He specialises in exquisitely controlled feedback and electronically treated drones, producing waves and fields of sound that change often only incrementally over the duration of the pieces. Here he pits himself against accordion, violin, piano and other guitars in a varied suite of pieces recorded between Chicago and Dortmund, both solo and with collaborators. Apparently this reflects his “coming out” internationally over the last few years, from a Portuguese cocoon apparently every bit as stifling as a South Pacific one. The pieces are all named after ultra-high speed and/or experimental aircraft (perhaps reflective of the process of escape the CD records). Certainly the image of a sleek jet aircraft nicely encapsulates the sounds he dishes up, both adrenalising and occurring at a very high altitude. They range from the meditative to te intensely unsettling, and manage to steer clear of all the cliches one might have expected. Another great offering from Ecstatic Peace (thanks, Thurston!), and one we could all do with exploring in depth. Truly, Rafael Toral has the Right Stuff.
Bruce Russell