Rafael Toral

Rafael Toral: Space

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Even though Rafael Toral explains in his earnest liner notes how he became preoccupied with electronics and discovered uses for jazz in developing his "Space program," most listeners will find that the music on his 2004 album Space -- while far removed from your everyday electronica or grandpa's bebop -- is somewhat less original than the composer suggests. Described in terms of its sonorities and the ways they are handled, Toral's work resembles the jagged soundscapes of musique concrète from the 1950s and drifting ambient music of the 1990s, perhaps more closely than any familiar jazz or other contemporary styles. If one listens to this three-part work with some musical imagination, it's possible to hear the distant influence of Ornette Coleman's free jazz and some of the prismatic, astral colors of Sun Ra, but to the critical ear, Toral's music still evokes the academic electronic music of the 1960s and '70s, as it struggles to escape the clichés of beeps, twitters, whooshes, rumbles, clicks, and protracted silences that characterized that idiom. Close to an hour in duration, the work depends on live performance for its realization, but there is little obvious spontaneity in Toral's electronic riffing until he is joined by Fala Mariam on alto trombone and Sei Miguel on pocket trumpet, whose sounds are filtered to blend into the synthesized textures. The slowly evolving results are interesting to follow, and fans of new electronic music will find Toral's project to be ambitious and inventive. Others, their expectations built-up by Toral's essay, may feel that Space's potential is only partly fulfilled and that it falls short of being truly innovative or daring.

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