Squid’s Ear

Rafael Toral post-free jazz electronic music does not partake in the continuous evolution and advance of the jazz tradition, but is an instance of discontinuity, which makes uncertainty the basic rule. This, the third door in Toral’s long-term research project, the Space Program series, which reconsiders the basic conception and experience of electronic music, opens onto vast fields wherein cello (Rute Praça), pocket-trumpet (Sel Miguel), electric double-bass (Margarida Garcia), percussion (Cesar Burago), and flute (David Toop), are not only thrown out of kilter but enjoy radical freedom from their timbral identities. Toral favors bursts of overtones that are gone before you can assign precise intervals to their voicing. In their inexplicable appearance and disappearance, they resemble a living species, imbued with a sense of absence and an energy that enables them to swing and squiggle in distinct ways before they vanish and leave but an imprint behind. “I.I” begins with a long silence. Eventually, long arcs of glissando purse the uncluttered air while soft hums shift microtonally and a disparate set of plucks and blips rise alongside barely traceable sighing trumpet tones. Here, as in many places over the course of the disc, Toral seems equally interested in the events themselves as the strange fingerprints they leave on the silences that surround them and vice versa. Without becoming confused or incoherent, the players push and are pushed well beyond continuity, in a sonic journeying through a thick broth of neon-light noise, bone-dry exercises in micro-gestures, and sprawling pieces surreally elongating and distorting gestures. The musicians have clearly invested a good deal of creativity in this process, and the record comes out intensely focused and full of ideas.

Max Schaefer