field report no.092817

SUBJECT: Rafael Toral

A very unscientific poll implies Rafael Toral's fans are split along the two portions of his career. I've found little overlap between his ambient-electronic guitar manipulation pieces and his  homemade electronics improvisations. While I've enjoyed both, it's by dint of viewing the two phases of Toral's work-to-date as if by separate artists.

When I heard this show announced in a preamble to the Daniel Levin show (the week before) at Revolve, I could hardly believe it. That he would play a gallery space in Asheville, NC, seemed too improbable. Toral's work seems so isolated and niche, I counted myself lucky catching him a few years ago, in NYC.

Toral performs with smaell, curious, make-shift electronic devices that seem homemade. Many of them work, on some level, with feedback. This emphasizes gesture, making him move his arms in wide sweeps to control the sound, occasionally using his body as a dampener. The delicacy of his control, his expressive touch with these somewhat crude tools is nothing short of impressive.

Unfortunately the tools themselves are not nearly as expressive as he is. Monophonic and with a throttled tonal range, he wrings everything possible from them, yet it can still feel two dimensional. I would rather, given a chance to see him again, catch a duo or trio setting. He'd thrive in a scenario where there's something for him to play off. He could even introduce some expansion effects—variable delay or reverb—to add a depth of dynamics to the sound.

NOTES: Rafael Toral; ANKA