Portuguese electronics wizard Rafael Toral explores space, literally – physical, atmospheric and astronomical space, for almost two decades in a series of projects. Unlike other familiar sonic space explorers, most notably Sun Ra, but also others like Steve Roach, Toral does not employ innovative keyboards in his sonic journey but different means of using feedback – acoustic and electronic, and modified amplifier.
The new line-up of his Space Quartet features double bass player Higo Antunes, who played in the last incarnation of the Quartet (Clean Feed, 2018), and is known for his collaborations with American trumpeter Nate Wooley. The new musicians are alto sax player Nuno Torres, who doubles on electronics, and a frequent collaborator of violinist-violinist Ernesto Rodriguezs and drummer Nuno Morão, who plays in a trio with clarinetist Paulo Galão and cellist Guilherme Rodrigues. «Under the Sun» was recorded live at ZDB club in Lisbon and at Teatro Viriato in Viseu in October 2019.
The opening title-piece begins as an acoustic free-improvisation, open and sparse but bursting with energy. When Toral joins, the interplay becomes more tense and urgent, and his palette of sounds contrast the sax blows of Torres, rooted in the free jazz legacy, and pushes the quartet to unpredictable and unchartered courses and forces it to experiment and correspond to raw, noisy and abstract textures. The second and last piece «Beneath the Moon» is introduced by Toral’s otherworldly sounds, together with the spacious pulse of Antunes, and both set the more lyrical and introspective spirit of this sonic journey. Later, both are joined by the delicate cymbal work of Morão and the contemplative sax blow of Torres. But mid-piece, Toral and Antunes take the Quartet to another noisy and dissonant detour that triggers more adventurous timbral searches and enigmatic sonic experiments. Toral sounds again like a lost twin brother from another planet of Torres, stressing that space may still be the place for imaginative sonic explorers.
Rafael Toral (ac. and elec feedback, amp), Hugo Antunes (b), Nuno Morão (dr, perc), Nuno Torres (as, elec)