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«Spectral Evolution»

Portuguese multi-instrumentalist and sonic visionary Rafael Toral returns to the electric guitar after a thirteen-year investigation of his, so-called Space Program, mainly with his Space Quartet, where he composed only with self-built electronic modules and playing with fluid phrasing and rhythmic flexibility inspired by jazz. Spectral Evolution suggests a new, experimental yet highly emotional synthesis of the electric guitar with bass and self-made electronics, and creates a sonic mass of Toral’s new expanding universe. The album was recorded at Toral’s Noise Precision Regada between 2020 and 2022, and released by the label of another resourceful and imaginative sound artist, Jim O’Rourke’s Moikai.

Toral began to explore this new, defining sonic phase in 2017, still centered around the arsenal of self-built electronic instruments developed in the Space Program, but with a renewed interest in the long tones and almost static textures of his earlier work, and, again, with the electric guitar. Spectral Evolution is a twelve-part atmospheric suite that weaves gently and slowly clean guitar lines with subtle, modulated feedback, that echoes the mysterious and fragile sound of brass or wind instruments, often acting as if having a life of their own. Toral integrates organically into this suite his self-built electronic instruments and relies more on the classic jazz harmony, including twisted takes on archetypal Gershwin ‘Rhythm changes’ and Ellington Strayhorn’s iconic «Take the “A” Train», but slowed down so much that each chord becomes a kind of environment in its own right.

The ethereal ambiance of Spectral Evolution is often reduced to almost a whisper, and at other times becomes a crystal, expansive drone. There are references not only to the seminal jazz legacy but also to David Tudor’s live-electronic rainforest or the guitar works of Loren Connors. But, eventually, it is a beautiful and profound outcome of three years of experimentation, recording and synthesizing the highly immersive sonic insights of more than thirty years of musical research.

Eyal Hareuveni

Rafael Toral (guitars, bass, and electronics)