Record Review 

Rafael Toral lists every guitar used to create each track on Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance in the liner notes like the nerdiest of music-store nerds. But you'd barely know they were there most of the time if he didn't. The Portuguese composer takes the prosaic instruments of rock conquest -- from a Roland G-707 guitar synthesizer to a Fender Jaguar to a Danelectro 12-string -- and feeds their signals into a variety of analog electronics and effects to create a series of ethereal drone pieces. The result is probably the most stunning and unlikely solo guitar album you will hear this or any other year.

Toral has released several sparse, slow-blooming guitar-and-effects-minimalism epics, but Violence of Discovery is his finest recording in part because he focuses his efforts on a more intimate scale. The opening "Desiree" might overwhelm and cause mental drift at album-side length. But at three-and-a-half minutes, its lush Northern Lights shimmer envelops and ravishes you, then moves on.

Still, this is a guitar record more than anything. You can hear the contour and grain of actual straight-outta-the-amp feedback amid the shifting timbres on "Maersk Line" and "Liberte." And on the closing "Mixed States Uncoded," Toral unveils his biggest surprise to date: Picking his way through a tart and lovely chord progression like Jimi Hendrix lazing in the sun on heaven's back porch, he rides a gently oscillating tone and random space noise into the would-be hit single minimalism's never had.


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