TO:48 – Rafael Toral “Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance”

CD – 10 tracks

Track list:

1. Desirée
2. Measurement Of Noise
3. Quiet Mind
4. Maersk Line
5. Liberté
6. Optical Flow
7. Energy Nourish
8. Hay Que Trabajo Me Cuesta Quererte Como Te Quiero
9. We Are Getting Closer
10. Mixed States Uncoded

Considered by the Chicago Reader to be “one of the most gifted and innovative guitarists of the decade”, Rafael Toral has been developing in the last 15 years a unique sound world, having been as influenced by Alvin Lucier and Brian Eno as by Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. Using the guitar as part of a complex electronic instrument, Toral has collaborated with Jim O’Rourke, John Zorn, Sonic Youth, Rhys Chatham and Phill Niblock and played in many European countries and in several states in the US. He’s also a member of MIMEO, the electronic orchestra featuring Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz, Peter Rehberg, Kaffe Matthews and many others.VDCA is a collection of ten small pieces crafted by Toral with extreme precision and care through the last seven years. Using guitars and analogue technology, it can be described as Toral’s best work, embodying all the directions he explored in his previous critically acclaimed records, “Sound Mind Sound Body” [Moikai, USA], “Wave Field” [dexter’s cigar/drag city, USA] and “Aeriola Frequency” [Perdition Plastics, USA] but taking them into new dimensions.

LEE RANALDO: I think the most interesting thing about Raphael is that he lives out on the end of the world, which is about how isolated Portugal is, even for the rest of Europe, and that he has managed to forge some sort of interest and trajectory for himself in the esoteric realm of “new” music. He’s a young man forging ideas out of what he has heard and read about, and has a good set of ears and knows what he’s listening to. (He’s) rather scientific in his approach…

JIM O’ROURKE: Rafael is a really good guy with a good ear, I think, and a sense of timing and density that is a luxury to find. He is a swell, honest person too.
This is his first album for Touch. The highly evocative intricate and subtle guitar drones are captured in the beautiful photography of Heitor Alvelos, a Portuguese artist, and in the artwork of Jon Wozencroft.

The background noise on track 10 is a recording of silence during a Space Shuttle mission real time webcast. All other sounds were released by electric guitars. The album was recorded between 1993 and 2000 and mastered at Noise Precision, Lisbon.


PopMatters (USA):

Rafael Toral’s album Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance has been through a long tunnel. Between 1993 and 2000, Toral collected whatever noises he could manipulate from his electric guitar and set them aside. Just like a sculptor who picks up litter from the ground to use in their latest project, he probably didn’t have a clear idea how the finished work would sound during this time. In 2001, this album finally saw a release on the oddball label Touch. It raked in considerable acclaim, including a writer from Chicago Reader who anointed Toral “one of the most gifted and innovative guitarists of the decade.” When a writer types that sentence in the year 2001, to which decade are they referring, anyway?

Well, that talk has officially been saved for another decade. Brussels label Sub Rosa has given Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance a reawakening, though it’s more of a gentle nudge than a boldly-touted “comeback”. There’s no bonus/supplemental material, but the “music” remains there in all its cloudy and nebulous magnificence. The harmony is still compelling in its simplicity, and its overall form is always out of reach of anything definable. Considering some of these six-string utterances go back 18 years, it has aged perfectly. Some would never have guessed that an album constructed from 99% electric guitars would make late ‘70s Brian Eno sound like classic rock.

Truth be told, it’s difficult to talk about Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance at length because it is so artfully minimal. One example of this is just how damn quiet the album is. In the thick of the “Loudness Wars”, certain intros to songs on Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance aren’t just afraid to wake the baby—they’re afraid of being heard by anybody. This is a powerful understatement in this modern era surrounded by compressed and digitized crap: the notion that holding your cards close to your chest can actually be somewhat startling. Violence of discovery indeed.
Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance isn’t homogenous, though. Sometimes the building blocks can come with a jagged edge, guaranteed to inflict a subliminal splinter on the next set of ears that come across them. In another musical dimension, the feedback loop that exists as a bed for “Maersk Line” could be the byproduct of a smashed Townshend guitar, sending ripples of noise over the heads of Who fans. While most tracks live inside an ambient glow, something like “Energy Nourish” is some V’Ger menace. Spooky gurgles gliding over a metallic foundation is enough to disrupt the flow of any other album, but on Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance, the aesthetic is matched even if the technicalities of mood are not. The 1% of the album that does not come from a guitar is on the final track, “Mixed States Uncoded”. Toral lifts a sample of dead air from a webcast of a space shuttle’s mission and mixes it into the background. God, you can’t get much more cosmic than that.

Song titles run a little on the arbitrary side for this music, though they seem appropriate enough: “Quiet Mind”, “Optical Flow”, “Resonance of Space/We Are Getting Closer”. It really doesn’t matter what they are called, though; Rafael Toral could’ve named them “Untitled 1”, “Untitled 2”, and so on – what remains important is that the guitarist stood back and let his instruments ring. There are rock formations shaped by wind and water erosion that have the appearance of something purer than anything manmade. Acceptance doesn’t have to be just calm. It can be invigorating too. [John Garratt]

foxydigitalis (USA):

This reissue of Lisbon, Portugal-based electronic composer Rafael Toral’s 2001 album is structured around guitar, bass, and synth lines expanded into wide orchestral sounds. It was recorded prior to the delving into a period of work Toral calls the Space Program, in which the musician changed his primary form of expression from the use of guitar and synthesizer to filtered electronic tones, and when the listener considers the abrupt change that that period represents in Toral’s work, it seems to become clear that this album documents a creative turning point into that new chapter: in an interview with the Time Off publication of Australia, for example, Toral noted that “Violence of Discovery” marked the completion of a particular compositional period because it represented the realization of a musical goal, saying that “I clearly felt I had achieved what [I] could ever have hoped to [when I was finishing ‘Violence’],” and that had he continued with this sound, he felt, the music “would become formulaic from then on.”

The subject matter of much of the record seems to be centered around the nature of perception, and even the album’s title would seem to encompass a central crux of human life within one phrase – that is to say, in a general sense, it expresses the importance of choosing how to react to the knowledge imparted by experience – and the music here is written in such a way as to explore and define where the border of what is defined as the relationship between composer and listener exists.

Toral’s concern with boundaries is also evident within the musical “score” itself: even the progression of one note to another can make the borderline between two tones seem indistinct, as on “Measurement of Noise,” where chords seem to “lift off” above and over the central musical motif. The album’s closing track, “Mixed States Uncoded,” comes closest to having what could be called a traditional “song” format, with the composer favoring chord progressions played on guitar, but even so it is more reminiscent of exploratory classical music than most guitar-based rock music.

Song titles such as “Quiet Mind,” “Liberte,” “Optical Flow,” “Energy Nourish,” also seem to build on a theme of mental clarity and an almost objective, scientific relationship between sound and listener, and there is a bracing lucidness to the work despite its often “blurry” instrumental sound. The guitar playing in particular is used in a way that stretches the definition of what the instrument is supposed to do, with Toral using its switches and electronics to create echoing vibrations that take up large swathes of the sound-field of the record.

Most importantly, “Violence of Discovery” is also open to a variety of types of experience: in a 1998 interview with Halana Magazine, Toral also mentions that, “It’s a challenge to make music that is charged in an open way, what it means, what it communicates, what it does. If [I] specify this, the music becomes charged with ‘me’ and [I] find this extremely uninteresting,” and in keeping with this idea the music here does not impose itself on the listener, but rather remains enigmatic and reliant on what the audience brings to their experience of the album.

Exclaim (Canada):

Since the mid-’00s, Portugal’s Rafael Toral has been working on his “Space Program,” a planned ten-disc exploration of homemade electronics and collaborative improvisation that brings together his love of early free-jazz and pioneering doohickery. Prior to this, Toral’s calling card was his incredibly deft touch at turning guitar work into staggeringly beautiful vistas of hue and tone. Violence of Discovery was originally released by Touch in 2000 and, as this reissue proves, remains his crowning achievement in that field. Most of the pieces meditate on the vibration of strings, using them as a basis to tease and sculpt harmonious forms out of the generative accidents. Despite the EFX-driven processes, Toral’s results feel organic and simple, like vivid descriptions of slow blossoms or clouds bursting. The album grows more organized and musical as it unfolds, culminating in “Mixed States Uncoded,” an actually “played” guitar piece that could have been lifted from My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless sessions. From start to finish this is a work of art. [Eric Hill]

Dusted (USA):

“Drone” is the word writers and listeners use these days when dealing with music that deals in either extended, immersive tones, open-ended long-form works, or some combination of the two. Fifteen years ago, the word was “Ambient.” Neither, unfortunately, really works for me, as they seem to be the end of analysis rather than the beginning. Rafael Toral knows this phenomenon well (his music has been described as both), and while he admits their usefulness as catch-all descriptors, he, too, is not satisfied with how they limit the music under discussion. “It describes only one aspect of sound, its duration, not its inner complexity and focus,” he said, in a 2006 interview in The Wire. “Can you imagine someone coming up with the term ‘short-note music’? Or, referring to piano music, ‘decay music’?”

Drone and Ambient are two labels that certainly do not apply to the music Toral has produced in the past decade, a concept of performance and research he has dubbed the “Space Program.” But the quote above was directed more at the discussion that surrounded his pre-Space Program work, such as Wave Field, Aeriola Frequency and Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance, originally released in 2001 and now reissued by Touch.

In many ways, Violence… is simultaneously a culmination as well as an overview of the decade or so Toral spent re-imagining the guitar. The 10 pieces here each trace their own slow trajectory through imperceptible harmonic changes, textural refinement and inaccessible machine-like logic. Some use a pointillist sense to build drawn-out melodies, some contrast glassy high-frequencies with bubbling undercurrents. Toral also utilizes the full spectrum of frequencies and dynamics, with rumbling lows and long, soft codas. The fact that the longest piece here is only eight and a half minutes, and most don’t top four, doesn’t stop each from evoking their own shade of wonder and charm.

So if not necessarily about duration and immersion, what are the 10 pieces here about? First of all, they are about resonance (the power of which Toral says he fully grasped after hearing Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room”). That is, they explore how sound behaves in a space and how it in turn affects us psychologically. They are also about release, about not only how we interact with technology, but how we give up control and allow technology to interact among itself. In Toral’s case, that means how his guitars, filters and pedals all feedback and speak to each other, seemingly without intervention by him.

It’s in this undefined and unplanned communication that, despite their similar lengths, the real difference between a regular pop song or rock tune and a piece like, say, “Optical Flow” lies. It’s only three minutes long, but a moment-to-moment complexity and unpredictability emerges, even if the whole remains somehow stable and intuitive. Attention shifts from the macro to the micro level, perception keener but somehow more expansive. What music as rich and subtle as Toral’s teaches us on Violence… is that just because we don’t have the words ready or the tools at hand to describe and interpret the sounds, it doesn’t mean we should put off the search. [Matthew Wuethrich]

self-titled mag (USA):

A Short Review: As a member of the “electronic orchestra” MIMEO, Rafael Toral has performed with everyone from Christian Fennesz to Editions Mego owner Peter Rehberg. He’s also worked with Sonic Youth, Rhys Chatham, John Zorn and many other Wire magazine favorites, so you better believe that this nearly decade-old artifact is essential listening for anyone who worships chromatic chords and glass bottom guitars. Oh by the way, seven years of riff-raking went into this recording. Let’s just say every last lick counts.

Mojo (UK) (on the reissue in 2010):

The late ’70s were a golden age of movies on British TV. Due to the bulk-buying policy that forced terrestrial TV companies to cough up for, say, ten minor-stripe movies with every James Bond blockbuster, broadcast schedules were regularly filled with beguiling, bonkers movies in prime-time chunks of the day. One of the best slots for any movie-hungry kid was BBC2 6.20pm, a post-scran nook in the working-class day where the well-fed child could dreamily digest their carb-heavy feasts whilst watching strangely soundtracked products of the post-war sci-fi movie boom. Favourite memories included winter screenings of William Cameron Menzies’ unearthly, roseate, Invaders From Mars, Rod Taylor fleeing the Morlocks in The Time Machine and the infernal internal sci-fi lunacy of Richard Fleischer’s Fantastic Voyage.

One side-effect of these ensorcelling films was the passion they instilled for spectral, dreamlike music. The connection was made: if I heard an amorphous, droning soundscape, whether Flying Saucer Attack’s Popol Vuh 1 or Harper’s Bizarre’s Witchi Tai To, I was back there in the strange glowing world of childhood evenings in front of the TV. And from the crimson neon glow of Jon Wozencroft and Heitor Alvelos’ sleeve design to the pulsating, hypogeal guitar sounds contained within, Touch’s reissue of Rafael Toral’s Violence of Discovery… is another instant Interzone ticket back to those halcyon sf winters. Recorded between 1994 and 2000, the music finds Toral feeding his Fender Jaguar, Ibanez Silver Bass and 12-string Danelectro through a Roland G-707, pushing the amplification to the point of eerie molecular vibration.

Yet while some of the tracks edge into disorted reverberation and radioactive creepiness – Measurement of Noise could be the dreamlike keening of the giant ants coming over the hill in Gordon Douglas’ 1954 mutant insect shocker, Them! – for the most part, Toral conjures up a serene, Utopian space age sound, the kind of calming vibrating hum a silver spaceship powered by dust-feathered old valves might make as it spirits you up into the night, out over the valleys of Neptune, the mountains of Mars. [Andrew Male]

Exclaim (Canada):

Few means for a great end. Portuguese guitarist/sound engineer Rafael Toral takes out his canvas and again shows his chops as a looper/soundscaper in an excellent release, continuing his work on a road already paved with good records like “Wave field” and “Aeriola frequency”. Toral’s timbres are so delicate and particular, they possess a beauty of their own; this musician achieves the not easy result of keeping your mind relaxed even when frequencies explored are far from smooth territories. Even then, sounds keep flowing naturally, like a sunset colour with just a little bit of electricity. If you love “guitar painting”, Main, Plotkin, Ambarchi and so on, surely this is for you as Rafael has rapidly become one of the “good ones” in that land of nobody – and his music is pretty deep indeed.

Touching Extremes (Italy):

This release has one of the most beautiful titles I have ever seen and has the music to more than back it up, making it one of my favourite all-time ambient recordings. Violence… is a live show done at Toronto’s Now lounge, where Raffael’s music was said to have shattered the glass frames of the pictures in the venue by hitting just the right frequency. Toral, accompanied by Rob Wannamaker, a notable improviser in his own right, uses modulating sounds to create a continuous, hovering, meditative album that’s suggestive of wordless realisations of the sages. Though the process of composing this music appears fairly complex, the results are simple, uncluttered and graceful. Long moments of subtle tremoring noises occur with build-ups that materialise out of a seemingly existential void, accompanied by vestiges of resonating string instruments. From darker, fear-filled parts to scaling redemptive heights of emotional exhilaration, this recording seems to mirror the experience of life itself. Somehow, Toral and Wannamaker managed to instil a sense of awe and wonderment, which is always a joy to behold, but happens so rarely.

Chasing sonic booms – an interview with Rafael Toral by Chad Oliveiri

Rochester, NY, June 2001 (USA):

Rafael Toral’s music first surfaced in this country back in 1997, when Jim O’Rourke and David Grubbs re-released his Wave Field on their Dexter’s Cigar imprint. It was Toral’s second record, originally released on the obscure Moneyland Records in his hometown of Lisbon, Portugal. Dedicated to composer Alvin Lucier and packaged in photos mimicking the artwork on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless album, Wave Field promises sprawling electric guitar minimalism. Liner notes make references to ambient music and “noise-charged clouds echoing some electrical radiation.” In two long tracks and a short “radio edit,” Wave Field conjures the essence of raw, noisy electric guitar distilled into a sort of molten lava. Toral takes the guitar — rock music’s dearest icon — and unlocks it from its wood-and-wires structure, setting its resonant qualities free to form a giant swell of sound. Wave Field is ambient music that has actual teeth. It is rock music “made liquid, a flowing essence,” Toral told the New York Press shortly after the record’s re-release.

“I wanted to make an ambient piece that sounded like a thousand rock gigs reverberating from a distant hall.” The recording brought Toral instant cache from the experimental music scene, and even some mainstream recognition. (Wave Field, somewhat inexplicably, turned up on’s list of 100 best records released in the US that year.) It was followed by a flood of material: O’Rourke re-released Toral’s official debut, Sound Body Sound Mind, on his Moikai label; Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace issued Chasing Sonic Booms, a collection of Toral improvisations in solo and duet contexts; Toral completed two new recordings — Aeriola Frequency on Chicago’s Perdition Plastics and Cyclorama Lift 3 on the German Tomlab label — where he put his guitar aside to build luminous drones from pure electronic resonance. All of this activity eventually landed Toral a seat in the Music In Movement Electronic Orchestra (MIMEO) alongside experimentalists like musique concrète composer Jerome Noetinger and laptop musician Christian Fennesz. Toral compares performing in MIMEO to “being in the middle of a traveling tropical rainforest. It’s like wading in an ocean of sound,” he says. “There’s this dense energy in the air every time we get together.” We caught up with Toral via e-mail while he was in Lisbon, frantically preparing for a US tour that will bring him to the Visual Studies Workshop for a performance on Sunday, July 8. He’ll be touring in support of his latest solo release, and first for the revered Touch label, Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance.

The recording contains what Toral considers his strongest work — a collection of uncharacteristically short guitar-based drones that he likens to miniature pearls. Painstakingly assembled from 1993 to 2000, Discovery is, in Toral’s mind, the true successor to Wave Field. “It somehow embodies everything i’ve done in the past and at the same time expands into several new directions,” he says. “It’s the most meticulously crafted music i’ve ever made. Each track took months to complete. Actually, the method of composition I used was exactly the same used for Wave Field, layering and removing. I was like an archaeologist removing layers of sand from around a precious object, only I had to figure out what belonged and what had to go.” It wasn’t until after escaping the staid confines of traditional music education that Toral began to blossom as a sound artist. His CV cites his participation in composition seminars led by Emmanuel Nunes at the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, and courses in “analysis and composition techniques” at the Academia de Amadores de Música. But his enrollment at the Academia is listed as “not concluded.” More drawn to sound as a physical presence than as an academic practice, Toral realized he wasn’t interested in learning anything, but instead practicing the making of music “as an act of discovery in itself,” he says. So he ventured off independently, landing a residency at Manhattan’s Experimental Intermedia Foundation that introduced him to an important mentor — musical minimalist and EIF founder Phill Niblock.

Then there was STEIM in Amsterdam, where Toral studied electric circuitry, and Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, where he served an internship for the development of an intermedia performance. (Visuals are an important aspect of Toral’s work. He often performs accompanied by very minimal video footage he has compiled of airplanes landing, windmills spinning. The stills from this footage emboss a couple of his audio releases.) Toral’s research into sound as a physical property and sound-making as a process of discovery formed the basis for his recording career. All of his recent pieces “start with a drawing of circuitry and procedures to do something; details on what gear is used, how it’s used, and how it’s connected.” For his Rochester performance, Toral will premier Engine, a piece for modulated feedback that requires a raft of equipment. “In its original version, it takes a 13-foot-wide table full of stuff, including two guitars and a bass, a stereo amp and speakers (for feedback with the guitars), motors on the strings, most of the pedals I have, a mixer, and an analog modular system.”

For his own sake, Toral has prepared a portable version of “Engines” based on electronic feedback as opposed to the electro-acoustic arrangement with the guitars. He’ll need only the modular system and the mixer, with the “motor sounds” prepared on MiniDisc. “So most of the sounds will be made by empty circuits oscillating on their own and modulated by the modular’s devices,” he says. “It’s played on two independent circuits, so it’s like playing two versions of the piece simultaneously, one in the left channel and the other in the right.” In interviews, Toral has always been very quick to cite his musical influences: Eno for his self-generating ambient music, John Cage for his theory that there is no such thing as silence, Lucier for his approach to resonance, Niblock for his music’s sheer physicality, My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields for his melding of ethereal ambience with harsh textures… The list goes on, but it includes only musicians whose work Toral encountered in his youth. “Perhaps what strikes us most deeply does so at a time when we’re young and discovering what is interesting,” he says. “I’ve been fascinated by some friends of mine, like Kevin Drumm, Fennesz, Thomas Lehn, Kaffe Matthews, or Jerome Noetinger. (It’s great for us to see each other working within MIMEO.) And there’s Jim O’Rourke, of course. But their music doesn’t get reflected in my work. When you’re young, ideas come to you as a sort of revelation and open a lot of doors. In that process you become who you are. Then you just go on.”
Rafael Toral has quite a few audio projects sitting on the shelf, awaiting his next free moment. One is an album of John Cage compositions that he recently revisited. “Some of it is quite radical,” he says. “I still have to produce a version of Fontana Mix. It could take years, maybe not.” Another is an album of music sourced from the resonance of various large bridges situated in cities across the world. He views bridges as large instruments just waiting to be tapped for their musical qualities. But the project, as you might guess, is a bit involved. “I need to work with all sorts of tools I don’t have, like special filters,” he says. “So far, I’ve only recorded a demo. But I might work on building these pieces with software in the future.”

The Guardian (UK):

They come along nearly every other week: abstract solo-guitar records, full of electronic atmospheres, ambiguous tonality and titles like Measurement of Noise. But this album has a quality all its own: a gorgeous sensual timbre that hardly depends upon any conventional harmony, melody or pulse at all. The sound flows slowly from one grandiose texture to another. There’s little of the violence promised by the title, other than the damage done to your preconceptions of what an electric guitar should sound like. The sustained opening of Quiet Mind sounds something like an enormous, distant choir; Optical Flow, for 12-string guitar, conjures the spectre of an underwater harp (or a child’s musical bath toy). Toral crafted these electroacoustic miniatures between 1993 and 2000, using electric guitars and analogue technology. In his hands, the sonic debris customarily associated with distorted electric guitars is somehow rendered warm and comforting. Some pieces, like Energy Flow, come across at first like long drones, but they are the kind of drones that contain a plenty of detail and movement. Other pieces are like little studies for a particular noise, explorations of an instrument’s idiosyncrasies within a narrow sound-frame. The final track, Mixed States Encoded, boasts “a recording of silence during a Space Shuttle real time webcast”, but the guitar part is dangerously close to slack, indie-rock noodling. Toral sounds much happier when there are no chord sequences or rhythms to get in the way of the possibilities for overtones and sustained sound offered by his guitar collection. [John L. Walters]

The Wire (UK):

More oceanic ‘calm of acceptance’ than ‘violence of discovery’, these ten Ambient meditations on treated electric guitar, gathered from the last seven years, are like a series of exquisitely poised and iridescent ragas. Hailing from Portugal, Toral’s work has been compared to that of Robert Fripp in its exploration of the melodic colour of drones, loops and overtones, using only guitar and analogue equipment. Slow, broadly arcing and snaking coils of sound unfold like a gargantuan reverberating wind chime, or a labyrinth of vast organ pipes. Two or three drones will twist alongside each other, causing harmonic clouds that tremble and melt without setting up much rhythmic interference. The effect is deeply colourist. Whether it climbs its way out of the growling depths, or shimmers into appearance like a scraped gong, each track moves into the same kind of pitch range and lets the Aurora Borealis work its sonic wonders. ‘Maersk Line’ is more quavering , seesawing and abrasive, and this well judged introduction of movement helps to animate the second half of the album. ‘Optical Flow’ unexpectedly foregrounds more plucked chimes, falling upon each other like a music box. Other later tracks give a fuzzier feedback edge to the iridescent prowling of the drones, or use the puckered croak of slowly scraped guitar strings to provide stronger textures. The final track steps off into post-rock territory, with, for the first time, a downbeat strumming of plangent chords and a fuzzy background drone (provide, believe it or not, by a recording of ‘silence’ from a space shuttle mission, broadcast on the Web), which raises the spectre of My Bloody Valentine. Bliss with ballast. [Matt Ffytche]

%Array (UK):

Rafael Toral’s first album for Touch, ‘Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance’ was crafted over a seven year period between 1993 and 2000. It shows. Barring “a recording of silence during a space shuttle mission real time webcast” on ‘Mixed States Uncoded’ Toral states that, “every sound was released by electric guitars”. The result is one of the most beautiful guitar-generated albums you could possibly imagine. ‘Violence of Discovery…’ defies easy categorisation. As its gestation period doubtless indicates, it’s much, much more than an album of guitar-generated drones. Toral’s attention to detail and eye for subtlety is rarely matched and are qualities that set this release apart. Opening with the massed glissando of ‘Desiree’ sets the scene perfectly. Dense clusters of harmonics – which deserve a pair of quality headphones – glisten across the space of four minutes of sustained harmonies before easing gently into the wonderfully titled and evocative ‘Measurement of Noise’. ‘We are Getting Closer’ is four minutes of pure heaven – the rippling sounds of water lapping against a distant shore… Closing with ‘Mixed States Uncoded’, is about as close to spine-tingling perfection as you could imagine. A slow grumble with high frequency counterpoint and a melody of sheer beauty, it unfolds slowly, but surely. A suggestion of beauty, wonderful. [Christopher Murphy]

Blow Up (Italy):

Incontrato recentemente a Bologna dove si é esibito con l’ensemble “aperto” MIMEO, Rafael Toral rivela fin da subito simpatia, disponibilitá e una naturale pacatezza. Come le dieci tracce del nuovo cd su Touch che scodella anche un titolo assai intrigante. Violenza della scoperta e calma dell’accettazione é cosí il seguito ideale di “Wave Field” o di “Aeriola Frequency” i dischi piú minimali ed ambient del musicista portoghese. Cambia perù l’estensione e la durata dei brani. Dieci infatti sono inusualmente stavolta, come tenui acquarelli figli di una stessa tela fatta di delicate trame ambientali. Detto cosí potrebbe sembrare un disco di sensibile fragilitá. No, tutt’altro, la mano di Toral é decisa ed attenta, egli sparge con cura i suoi colori, le sue tinte chiaroscurali, senza sbavature. Con meticolositá e parsimonia le sue chitarre Roland G-707, Fender Jaguar, Ibanez Silver Bass, 12 string Danelectro, descrivono di volta in volta i brevi ed onirici paesaggi: Desirée, Measurement of Noise, Quiet Mind, Maersk Line, Liberté, Optical Flow, Energy Nourish, Hay que trabajo me cuesta quererte como te quiero, We are getting Closer, sono piccole gemme raccolte e selezionate con cura negli ultimi sette anni. Semmai la loro brevitá ti impedisce di afferrarle prima del loro svanire. Nell’ultima traccia, Mixed States Uncoded, Rafael Toral offre un altro assaggio della sua passione per gli aerei e tutto ciù che solca il cielo e lo spazio, inserendo un background noise che altro non é che una registrazione di silenzio catturata via webcast in tempo reale, durante una missione dello Space Shuttle. (7/8) [Gino Del Soler]

Signal to Noise (USA):

Toral, on the other hand [as opposed to Fennesz – ed.], likes to serve splendor straight up. Once more the cover gives clues to what lies within; Heitor Alvelos’s photographs blend images of trees, power lines, and the sky with vibrant colors and twisting shapes that result from manipulations of photographic processes. Likewise, while nearly all of the sounds on this record issue from electric guitars (the last track has a little space noise that was recorded during a Space Shuttle mission), they don’t often sound like they did. The Lisbon-based sound painter works so much within the realm of signal processing that it’s a shock when, half way through the album, he first strikes some recognizable notes on “Optical Flow.” Not until the closing piece “Mixed States Uncoded” does melody overtake texture. But what gorgeous textures! “Desirée” resonates like the inside of a vast bowed wine glass, “LibertŽ” and “Energy Flow” drone like distant propeller-driven airplanes, and on “Quiet Mind” feedback mingles with sonorities so voice-like that they seem to issue from some celestial choir. So many artists aim for beauty and come up with mere prettiness; on “Violence Of Discovery And Calm Of Acceptance” Toral hits the target. [Bill Meyer]

de:bug (Germany):

Hier kommt jemand, der sich mit seiner elektrischen Gitarre so mittenrein zwischen die Stühle zwischen Eno, Budd und Brook setzt und mit seinen Drones, die nicht wirklich dronig sind, seinen Plinkereien, die alles andere als plinkerig sind und mit seinen Bergen von Effektgeräten, die mit Sicherheit von ungefähr 27 Laptops gesteuert werden müssen, aber eher wie ein Eisbegirge klingen, etwas für meine Begriffe Neues ausprobiert. Klar, Gitarren müssen nie so klingen wie ihr Name, aber wenn sie das nicht tun, will man es meistens auch nicht mehr hûren. Herrn Toral schon. Weh tut hier nichts, alles ist eher gro§ und erhaben und klingt nach einer gro§en flirrenden Symphonie in unbekannten Tonarten. Gibt es Menschen, die Max-Patches nur für Gitarren schreiben? Gro§. [Thaddi]

VITAL (Netherlands):

For a number of years I have been enjoying the work of this Portugese guitarist Rafael Toral and found his work better and better with every new release. Highlight was the ‘Aeriola Frequency’ CD for Perdition Plastics, with it’s two slowly evolving pieces of feedback, guitar and electronics. Sounds captured inside electrical systems, and automatically transformed. This new CD has ten tracks which sort of use the same ideas as developed on his previous CD’s, but then in the context of a shorter piece. The power so far lies for me in the slow changes of his music, which of course is served best in a longer piece. Each piece uses just an electric guitar (except for one that also uses “the recording of silence during a Space Shuttle mission real time webcast”), but god knows how many effect box. Toral paints little pictures in sound, and if his previous releases were oil on canvas, this is sketches with pencil and paper. Usually fragile drone like music, that sets a certain atmosphere for a while and then moves on to the next one. ‘Optical flow’, the sixth track, is the first in which the guitar tinkles as a guitar. Delicate pieces and Toral succeeds well in doing his great things in a short context too. Beautiful stuff. [FdW]

The Ticket (Belgium):

Even kennismaken? Rafael Toral is een jonge Portugese gitarist die daar aan het achtereind van Europa de fragielste soundscapes uit zijn gitaar tovert en er intussen een behoorlijke reputatie mee verwierf in de rest van de wereld. Mede onder de invloed van Brian Eno, Sonic Youth en My Bloody Valentine creÎert hij al vijftien jaar een unieke, experimentele geluidswereld. Toral werd enkele jaren geleden onder de arm genomen door Jim O’Rourke en kreeg meteen de kans om op het label van zijn mentor het door critici geprezen Sound Mind Sound Body uit te brengen. Nadien volgden nog Wave Field (op Dexter’s Cigar/Drag City) en Aeriola Frequency (op Perdition Plastics). Toral werkte in de loop der jaren onder meer samen met John Zorn, Sonic Youth, Rhys Chatham en Phill Niblock. Hij maakt eveneens deel uit van MIMEO, het los/vast elektronisch collectief dat opgericht werd door Keith Rowe en onder meer Christian Fennesz, Peter Rehberg en Kaffe Matthews in zijn rangen telt. Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance verzamelt tien stukken die Toral de laatste zeven jaar met uiterste zorg en precisie componeerde. Net als Fennesz en O’Rourke gebruikt hij de gitaar in combinatie met analoge technologie als een complex instrument waar hij subtiele en intrigerende drones uit puurt en de meest onmogelijke geluiden uit haalt. Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance – wat een fantastische titel trouwens! – is zonder meer Toral’s beste werk tot nu toe. Ook hier gebruikt hij weer alle technieken die hij op zijn vorige albums toepaste maar hier worden ze nog verder verfijnd. Het breekbare Mixed States Uncoded komt nog het meest in de buurt van een Fennesz track. De achtergrondgeluiden werden opgenomen tijdens de stilte van een real time webcast van een Space Shuttle missie. De eerste duizend exemplaren van Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance komen bovendien in een speciale uitgebreide cd-verpakking met een boekje met mooie foto’s van zijn landgenoot Heitor Alvelos. [Peter Wullen]

Chicago Reader (USA):

Rafael Toral’s Wave Field (Moneyland, 1995) and Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance (Touch, 2001) are two of the most gorgeous records of guitar music made in the past decade – and part of their beauty derives from how far they venture from the familiar language of the guitar. To create the surging ambient soundscapes of Wave Field, the Lisbon-born Toral ran the signal from his instrument through a battery of equalizers, filters, and other electronic effects, generating vivid tonal colors that flow as inexorably as lava. On Violence he’s refined and intensified this palette, assembling ten concise, vibrant new compositions from guitar textures that sometimes sound like bowed wineglasses, tolling bells, or the rumbling of distant jets. In recent years Toral has also made compelling music without a guitar – he didn’t touch a string throughout “Infinity Blur,” a Cagean exploration of the limits of audibility that comprised the first set of a 1999 Chicago concert, instead relying on jury-rigged electronics; and he generated the lustrous, resonant sounds threaded through Aeriola Frequency (Perdition Plastics, 1998) by plugging two delay units into each other and modifying the looping feedback of this empty circuit with an equalizer. But this is the first time Toral has come to Chicago and simply left his guitar behind. He’ll perform a new set-length composition, “Engine,” with a Doepfer analog modular system and a mixer, manipulating twin channels of electronically generated feedback — the only guitar sounds will be replayed from minidiscs. [Bill Meyer]

Incursion (USA):

Packaged in an oversize sleeve with stunning imagery by photographer Heitor Alvelos (with art direction by Jon Wozencroft, of course), the latest CD by Portuguese artist Rafael Toral is a wonder to behold. Each of the ten tracks on this disc uses only the sounds from electric guitars (he catalogues them in the liner notes), with the exception of the final track, where the background noise is taken from “a recording of silence during a Space Shuttle mission real time webcast”. Delicate shifts and shifting drones in each of these relatively short tracks create some wonderful atmospheres. Toral has an undeniable talent for creating self-contained moods and textures; each track is unique, developing in its own rhythm and direction, yet at the same time each carries Toral’s singular voice. The guitar only rarely sounds like a guitar, as in “Optical Flow”, or in the strumming of the closing piece “Mixed States Uncoded”. Instead, Toral’s art rests in the transformations of his sound source; roughness is transformed into gentility, a chord is transformed into a stunning drone. Silence and sound interact in these pieces to great effect; the listener treasures the continuous ebb and flow of this wondrous music. Highly recommended. [Richard di Santo]

All-Music Guide (USA):

Released simultaneously as an LP on Staubgold and a CD on Touch, Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance marked an effort toward accessibility for Rafael Toral without comprising his artistic integrity. The ten tracks are short, mostly three to five minutes long with one notable exception. The music follows a soothing mood, easy to get into on a superficial level, fascinating when studied more closely. Loops of aerial electric guitars produce ambient soundscapes retaining little connexions with their instrument of origin. A few delicate melodies are encrusted in some of these constructions (like on Liberté), simple lines reminiscent of Loren Mazzacane Connors, Biosphere, or even Fennesz’ Endless Summer (released at about the same time). On the closing Mixed States Uncoded one finds a post-rockish lazy nostalgia that was quite impossible to imagine upon hearing the opener Désirée, a soundscape much closer to something that would come out of a metallic sound sculpture than an electric guitar. Yet these differences all fall into place.

tijd cultuur (Belgium):

Het uitgangspunt voor de composities van de Portugees Rafael Toral is balans zoeken door het herwerken van zijn improvisaties. Daarbij hanteert Toral al meer dan vijftien jaar zijn gitaar als elektronisch (studio) materiaal: hij focust niet op klassieke muziekeigenheden als de melodie of op het ritme, maar schenkt veeleer aandacht aan het schijnbaar onbelangrijke detail. De emotionele spanningsboog die een aangehouden snaarakkoord kan oproepen, bijvoorbeeld. Zijn elektrische gitaar bewerkt Toral met analoge elektronica, teneinde het geluid uit te puren en nog een stapje dichter bij de essentie van het geluid te treden. Met die techniek ‹ een gelijke aan die van senior Phill Niblock ‹ creÎert Toral sonore landschappen bestaande uit esoterische drones die geen enkel verband meer vertonen met de instrumenten waar ze aan ontsproten. Na een drietal albums en muzikale collaboraties met onder andere John Zorn, Christian Fennesz en Jim O’Rourke, trok Toral voor dit werk zeven jaar uit: Violence Of Discovery And Calm Of Acceptance zou zijn magnum opus moeten worden. De Portugees slaagt met brio: in de tussentijd verschenen werkstukken als het briljante Aeriola Frequency (1999) lijken nu slechts aanlopen voor deze langspeler. De eerste secondes van de opener Désirée, dicht op elkaar gestapelde geluidslagen, sleuren je meteen in een haast religieuze trance, een duik onder het wateroppervlak die steeds dieper gaat en intensifieert naarmate het album vordert. Na een half uur in de gewichtsloze duisternis te toeven, introduceert Toral in Liberté een voorzichtig akoestisch motief. Een ontlasting van korte duur: in de volgende track wordt Torals densiteit nog drukkender en krijgt het geÎxploreerde sonore oppervlak pijnlijk stekelige kantjes. Toral sluit in volmaakte schoonheid af met het naar zijn normen verrassend lichte Mixed States Uncoded: een cirkelende loop van gebroken noise waarover Toral zijn grootse gitaartalent opnieuw ten volle demonstreert.

[Ive Stevenheydens]

remote induction (UK):

Rafael Toral has been recording guitar music for the last 15 years – experimenting with it and collaborating with a range of other artists. This is his first release from Touch, the first 1000 copies coming in envelope like card sleeve. A sleeve which includes the photography of Portuguese artist Heitor Alvelos. As an album Violence Of Discovery And Calm Of Acceptance is a mix of understated guitar melodies, floating and minimal construction, within which we can hear the light vibrations of strings and the atmospheric impact of those. On the whole the piece give the impressions of being relatively short, keeping the feel of the tracks in check so that they express what they have to within controlled layers before moving on. Though with that there is a steady consistency that carries through that progression. At times there are possible comparisons to the wind sounds of Hazard or the catching glitched guitar of Fennesz. Desiree, glimmering opening of guitar, light layers adding to the gentle impression. Turning in drifting fashions. Followed by Measurement Of Noise, which builds from a very quiet level of sound, flickering warmth, with a brushing of bass. Heading towards drone in its long drawn out development. Quiet Mind draws out the drone into tightly layered sound. With Maersh Line we have a straining bass ridge, rising in a vibrant chromatic edge that attempts to break out further. Liberte has rotary twitches with little glitch catches, giving a very fluid impression against a light brushing wind. Optical Flow is more pronounced with notes picked out within the backing bass drift. Energy Nourish brings rounded tones, which provide an almost gong like drone, with light motions behind that. As the album continues there seems to be a grater tendency for tracks to become more pronounced with progression. Hay Que Trabajo Me Cuesta Quererte Como Te Queiero is a mild rumble of tones, with stray sounds in the background, weaving together in an extended bubbling stream. We Are Getting Closer captures warm flickering drones, which wrap light plinking notes with hypnotic results. The last track, Mixed States Uncoded, is a different piece with its spattering of light noise to start with leading to the clear strums of guitar against a stark sighing background. [RVWR: PTR] (USA):

Released simultaneously as an LP on Staubgold and a CD on Touch, Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance marked an effort toward accessibility for Rafael Toral without comprising his artistic integrity. The ten tracks are short, mostly three to five minutes long with one notable exception. The music follows a soothing mood, easy to get into on a superficial level, fascinating when studied more closely. Loops of aerial electric guitars produce ambient soundscapes retaining little connections with their instrument of origin. A few delicate melodies are encrusted in some of these constructions (like on “LibertŽ”), simple lines reminiscent of Loren Mazzacane Connors, Biosphere, or even Fennesz’ Endless Summer (released at about the same time). On the closing “Mixed States Uncoded” one finds a post-rockish lazy nostalgia that was quite impossible to imagine upon hearing the opener, “DŽsirŽe,” a soundscape much closer to something that would come out of a metallic sound sculpture than an electric guitar. Yet these differences all fall into place to form a beautifully sequenced record that can be enjoyed as an ambient album or as a wicked gem of guitar mastery. The first 1,000 copies of the CD edition came packaged in a stunning wallet. Strongly recommended. [Francois Couture]


Portugal’s Rafael Toral makes music almost archetypically ambient: slow, shimmering drones that revolve around a single point; blurred bursts of light like a succession of dying starts; liquid electricity given flight. All the more impressive then that he ignores banks of synthesizers in favor of guitars and and oodles of delay. The ten tracks here sound marginally more dynamic than previous releases for Tomlab and Jim O’Rourke’s Moikai, but that’s not to say they are easy to grasp: like orbs of frozen energy, they melt and trickle through your fingers before you’ve had the chance to realise that your hands are empty. There’s a radical simplicity here: you sense that Toral isn’t forcing anything, just letting things exist as they are. Violence… is a breathtaking glimpse into the unadorned sphere of being. [Philip Sherburne]

Absurd (Greece):

Rafel Toral is one of a newer generation of experimental guitarists who strive to wrestle the last drops of possibility from an instrument from which so much diverse noise (never mind melody) has been extracted already that it’s no wonder that the only really drastic step left to take is to deconstruct the whole thing digitally. So following in the string bends and preparations of the likes of Robert Hampson, Lee Renaldo, Jim O’Rourke, Derek Bailey and so on, Toral opts for the deceptively simple approach of making the guitar sing the body and neck electric. Through ten tracks of uncurling analogue electronics and string-driven sounds, Violence Of Discovery and Calm Of Acceptance is crafted into an album of ambience which even manages to include the sound of amplified silence on a Space Shuttle mission launch webcast, a trick of which Eno would no doubt be proud. Tones and drones luxuriate without lounging or wafting into the realms of pomposity or self-indulgence – the feeling generated is more that Rafael Toral is actively listening to the sounds he’s making as both an outsider and creator. Regardless of the truth or not of this impression, the end result is a disc which roams from the rising effects trails into the tightly-controlled diversion of feedback into rhythms and half-framed melodies and chords, plateauing in areas where the sounds become scratchily electrical rather than merely plain and simply electronic. Tracks like “Mixed States Uncoded” bring to mind the better days of Flying Saucer Attack, conjouring an evocatively meditative quality from the guitars (and bass in this case) which inspires a gentle relaxation into the flow of the by-now uplifting music. [, net]

…to turn to rafael toral and his recent “violence of discovery and calm of acceptance” being both out as an lp on staubgold and as a cd on touch. Gotta admit that was my first touch with rafael’s sound as unfortunately didn’t have the chance to listen to his earlier works and gotta admit that I really enjoyed this one, especially for his ability to create some really stunning atmospheres varying in forms and textures from dense layers to more “minimal” drones that make you always be concentrated (and don’t get bored at all!) and enjoying this marvelous play of flowing soundscapes!

Hawai (Chile):

La violencia del descubrimiento y la calma de la aceptación. Rafael Toral, músico e ingeniero de sonido portugués nacido en Lisboa en 1967. Estudios en su país con Emmanuel Nunes, en Nueva York con Phill Niblock y en Amsterdam. Pronto se dio cuenta, o más bien se convenció para sí, que hacer música es “un acto de descubrirse a uno mismo”. Publicación de sus primeros trabajos en pequeños sellos, reedición de dos de ellos en otros más reconocidos, Dexter’s Cigar (el label de David Grubbs junto a Jim O’Rourke) y Moikai (la etiqueta que mantuvo por un tiempo solo O’Rourke), además de nuevo material en Ecstatic Peace! (“Chasing Sonic Booms”, 1996), Perdition Plastics (“Aeriola Frequency”, 1998) y Tomlab (“Clycorama Lift 3”, 2000). En suma, reconocimiento –“uno de los más dotados e innovadores guitarristas de la década”, The Chicago Reader– y entrada en las ligas mayores de la experimentación más respetada a escala global. Su ingreso definitivo lo hace en este milenio con este disco, editado conjuntamente por Staubgold (LP) y Touch (CD).

“Violence Of Discovery And Calm Of Acceptance” es la belleza del ruido sobre un ruido que no parece tal. Es noise que no agrede, ambient que cura. Una masa multiforme de guitarras re-constructivas. En palabras de Toral, este disco “de alguna manera encarna todo lo que he hecho en el pasado, y al mismo tiempo lo expande en muchas nuevas direcciones”. Concretamente, diez nuevas direcciones, diez perlas arrancadas desde las profundidades abisales del Océano Atlántico, el que baña las costas de Lisboa, pulidas hasta convertirse en canciones pop –que alguien me lo niegue, pero esto para mí es sin ninguna duda pop– y extrapoladas hasta el infinito. Este proceso no fue en lo absoluto rápido, sino que muy por el contrario tardó casi una década entera –“This album was recorded between 1993 and 2000”– y requirió el mayor cuidado posible. La calma de la elaboración. “Es el más meticuloso artefacto musical que he hecho jamás. Cada track tomó meses en completarse”. Durante todo ese tiempo se dedicó cual proceso matemático a sumar y restar, añadir y quitar. “De hecho, el método de composición que usé fue exactamente el mismo que usé para “Wave Field”, agregando capas y removiendo. Fue como un arqueólogo removiendo capas de arena alrededor de un objeto precioso, solo tenía que descifrar aquello que correspondía y lo que tenía que irse”. Pues bien, el arqueólogo Toral y nosotros, simples visitantes a su exposición, al final de todo, y una vez sacada la arena, nos topamos con uno de los objetos más preciosos descubiertos últimamente. Ciegos que éramos, no habíamos sido capaces de ver lo que eran capaces de hacer seis simples cuerdas, no de la manera en que Toral nos reveló. “All (other) sounds were released by electric guitars”. En efecto, solo guitarras eléctricas y equipos análogos se utilizaron para construir estas canciones, que dentro del mar de superficies, se mezclan y confunden entre sí. Olas y olas superpuestas, multiplicidad de pliegues que visualmente forman una única obra, un retrato multicolor del arcoiris del ruido. “Desirée”, la breve e intensa “Maersk Line”, la acuática “Measurement Of Noise” o seis minutos surfeando en una corriente sónica –“Hay una propiedad de las corrientes marinas que es un modelo inspirador para mí, para crear estructuras. El modo en que un río está siempre cambiando y es, al mismo tiempo, siempre el mismo es algo que trató de lograr en alguna de mi música”–, las nubes de distorsión en “Liberté”, el flujo de notas en “Optical Flow”, el romanticismo del feedback de “We Are Getting Closer” y “Hay que trabajo me cuesta quererte como te quiero”, y coronándolo todo, “Mixed States Uncoded”. Como dije previamente, todo son guitarras. La excepción se encuentra en esta pieza final. El sonido de fondo es una grabación del silencio durante una misión de un lanzamiento espacial, emitido por la red, y que sirve de introducción a lo que viene: la misma gloria. Un joven extranjero llamado Kevin Shields bordea Portugal. Intercambio de personalidades para dar una efímera vida a esta hermosísima canción, el florecer eventual de una armonía que de desliza con suavidad hacia el silencio.

Las fotografías de Heitor Alvelos, en especial la portada, y en concordancia con la música, ilustran esa colorida y borrosa luminosidad que irradia “Violence Of Discovery And Calm Of Acceptance”, una estrella eterna en el firmamento del (drone)pop hecho con guitarras. Se preguntaba Markus Detmer, director del sello alemán Staubgold, acerca de este álbum, “¿pueden ser más hermosos los drones?”. La respuesta, creo, ya la saben.