Rafael Toral | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
comment

RAFAEL TORAL

Though Portuguese guitarist and sound artist Rafael Toral is quick to thank all the American musicians who've opened doors for him--Phill Niblock (whose Guitar Too, for Four Toral has recorded for a forthcoming release), John Zorn, Jim O'Rourke, and John Cage among them--he's thrived on the intimacy and relative isolation of the experimental music scene, such as it is, of Lisbon, where he's been free to develop his own unpretentious, lucid aesthetic. Inspired by Brian Eno's quiet call to ambient humility, Cage's declaration that there is no such thing as silence, and an obsession with airplanes, Toral's gracefully structured pieces use guitars and their attendant technology as raw material for poetic hymns to machines, spaces, and sound itself. Probably his best-known work, Wave Field (a 1995 record reissued by the local Dexter's Cigar label in 1997), is in part an homage to his favorite guitar abusers, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine (the cover art is an obvious nod to Loveless): it sounds like a peaceful soundscape at low volume and batters the mind and the body with palpable waves of drone when played loud. But his most recent release, Aeriola Frequency (on another Chicago label, Perdition Plastics), eschews the guitar entirely: its two long unfolding pieces are "performed with an empty circuit...a feedback loop using as main instruments two 8-second delays and a 4-band parametric equalizer." There's no input source--these ghostly, variably pitched sounds, which bear some resemblance to recordings of whale cries, seem to emerge out of thin air. For once David Toop's liner-note raptures, here about sounds growing sentient, don't seem overwrought: Toral himself has compared the process of nudging the sounds along to tending "a garden with many different plants that I could water at different times, watching them grow and slowly expand into a gliding, outer-space-frequency forest." Even a Luddite could grasp the music's beauty, but its implications refute cherished notions that spiritual alienation from the things we make is somehow "natural." In Toral's first performance here in three years, he'll open for labelmate Kevin Drumm. Monday, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. Toral also makes videos, favoring "the image in motion that is in some way static at the same time." Two of them, Air Pass and Flyability, will be shown on Saturday at 9 PM at the Lunar Cabaret, 2827 N. Lincoln; 773-327-6666.

MONICA KENDRICK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Falcon D.

Add a comment