Rafael Toral is a composer also active in the fields of video and interactive media. Born in Lisbon in 1967, he has been performing live since 1984. Having attempted to study music, he realized his path was one of exploration and discovery, to which conventional music teaching was irrelevant. Considered by the Chicago Reader to be "one of the most gifted and innovative guitarists of the decade", he's been mainly working on the possibilities of ambient music (variable attention listening process), the electric guitar as a sound generator and improvisation with higher levels of risk (using instruments or systems that behave in unpredictable ways).
Developing solo work since 1987 and weaving a unique blend of references such as ambient, rock, chance and improvisation, Toral recorded four solo CDs and two with com No Noise Reduction (see discography), an experimental project with long time friend and collaborator Paulo Feliciano. He has performed extensively throughout Europe and North America, mostly solo but having as well collaborated with Sei Miguel, Phill Niblock, Rhys Chatham, John Zorn, Thurston Moore, Dean Roberts, Christian Fennesz and Jim O'Rourke.
He has also produced rock bands (Pop dell'Arte, Tina and the Top Ten, Supernova, Toast, Clockwork), presented video and multimedia installations and recorded music of Phill Niblock and John Cage.
In 1999, with Paulo Feliciano, constructed the "white cube", a light generating device interactive with sound spectrum, and participated as guest in Sonic Youth 's record "NYC Ghosts and Flowers".
In 2000, again with Paulo Feliciano, participated, with the mixed-media installation "Toyzone" (a piece with modified electronic toys, custom relay circuits and multiple sensors), in "Sonic Boom & the Art of Sound", an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in London, also with Christian Marclay, Pan Sonic, Ryoji Ikeda, Lee Ranaldo e Brian Eno, among others.
"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..." (Lee Ranaldo)
Formerly known for his drone/ ambient work with guitar and electronics and acclaimed records such as Wave Field (1994) or Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance (2000), he has radically renewed his approach to music, launching the jazz-inspired and alien-sounding Space Program in 2004, using experimental electronic instruments.
Rafael Toral plays electronic music today as a jazz musician would play his instrument, applying jazz discipline and working practices to his abstract electronics. The result is truly evolutionary music, once described as "a brand of electronic music far more visceral and emotive than that of his cerebral peers". Melodic without notes, rhythmic without a beat, familiar but strange, meticulous but radically free, it is riddled with interesting paradox. Toral has developed a musical system to physically play experimental electronic instruments and puts it to practice with large-scale project Space Program — a complex network of recordings and performances to deliver music that is full of clarity and space, articulating silence and sound in a thoughtful, yet physical way.