Portuguese experimental musician Rafael Toral first became known for producing guitar-based drone music, embracing elements of ambient and minimalism while finding common ground with post-rock and shoegaze. Eventually, he drastically shifted his approach and began working with electronic instruments, including modular synthesizers, modified amplifiers, and electrode oscillators. Toral's electronic work is sparse and alien-sounding, yet spontaneous and sometimes startling. He approaches his instruments the way a jazz musician would, but the result often has more in common sonically with early electronic works such as the Forbidden Planet soundtrack by Louis and Bebe Barron. Toral has worked with numerous avant-garde luminaries such as Phill Niblock, Jim O'Rourke, and Rhys Chatham. He is also a member of MIMEO, an electronic orchestra whose members include Keith Rowe, Christian Fennesz, Peter Rehberg, and Marcus Schmickler.
Toral was born in Lisbon in 1967. He attempted to study music as a youth, but abandoned formal training in favor of solo experimentation. He joined art-rock group Pop Dell'Arte and appeared on their 1987 debut album Free Pop, and later worked with João Peste & O Acidoxibordel, in addition to forming experimental duo No Noise Reduction with João Paulo Feliciano. His first solo release was 1994's Sound Mind Sound Body, an album of soothing guitar feedback drones and loops. Wave Field followed in 1995. Both albums caught the attention of the American experimental rock scene, and his third album, Chasing Sonic Booms, appeared on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace! label. 1998's Aeriola Frequency (one of Toral's first non-guitar recordings) appeared on Chicago label Perdition Plastics, and O'Rourke reissued Toral's first two albums on his Moikai and Dexter's Cigar imprints, respectively.
By this point, Toral was actively touring across Europe, North America, and Japan, and had joined MIMEO. Following 2000's Cyclorama Lift 3 (Tomlab), a 20-minute piece for no-input feedback loops, Toral's album Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance was issued by Staubgold (on LP) and Touch (on CD). In 2002, Tomlab released both a collection of Toral's Early Works as well as Electric Babyland/Lullabies, an album using music boxes as its source material. Touch issued Toral's Engine: Live in Paris, and two volumes of Harmonic Series appeared on Table of the Elements and Headz, respectively.
Toral launched his Space Program in 2003, utilizing electronic improvisations in both a solo and group setting. His first release in this vein was Space, issued by Staubgold in 2006. Space Solo 1 (Quecksilber) followed in 2007, and Space Elements, Vol. 1 appeared on Staubgold in 2008 (followed by two more volumes a few years later). Toral established a digital imprint, Noise Precision Library, which released archival recordings and Space Study releases, as well as collaborations with Lee Ranaldo, O'Rourke, and C. Spencer Yeh. In 2012, Clean Feed released Live in Minneapolis in collaboration with drummer Davu Seru. Cassette Space Collective 2 Live was issued by Notice Recordings in 2015. Space Solo 2 appeared on Staubgold in 2017. ~ Paul Simpson