I recently attended the premiere for Raf and O’s new album “Portal” in the beautiful setting of St James the Less Church in Pimlico. Raf and O are Raf Mantelli and Richard Smith (O), combining acoustic guitar and drums with an eclectic range of electronica. People ask, what do they sound like and I have to say “Raf and O” !! This is a rare achievement in a world of repeat performances and soundalikes. They describe themselves as performing unique detailed avant-pop, fusing electro/ acoustic drums, self-made triggers, pads, samplers, vocals, synths and acoustic guitar bathed in effects. This is accurate even if it does not trip off the tongue in a media friendly soundbite !!
David Stubbs of The Quietus also attempts to explain Raf and O’s music:
“The excellent Time Machine represents the very antithesis of EDM – There is a butterfly, acoustic delicacy and yet also the deceptive, steel strength of spider silk in their complex weaving – Raf’s vocal ranges far and wide in her emotional and lyrical foragings”
I first came across Raf and O at Richard Strange’s “Cabaret Futura” club – a place where Marc Almond, Spandau Ballet, Depeche Mode and Alexi Sayle first passed through. Since that time, Raf and O performed at Richard’s stunning production “Language is a Virus from Outer Space” at The Southbank Centre. The production celebrated the life of William Burroughs, leading light of the Beat Movement and author of “Naked Lunch”.
The album “Portal” explores time travel, although, questioning the real and the imagined via a sound world of spaciousness, tinged in sinister shades. It articulates their journey of the last two years, a series of connections, discoveries and dreams, seeming at times to tune in with the people who passed, leaving a mark into this world and unto our consciousness.
If you are looking for instant gratification in a busy world, try listening to “The Deadliest Flower” or “Magic” to give you an insight into just one window pane of their diverse work. Find them on You Tube for an insight into their performance capabilities.
The evening was started by an equally awesome performance from Emmy nominated electronicist Robert Logan. Robert’s list of collaborators include Grace Jones, Brigitte Fontaine, Steve Roach and Skye (Morcheeba). He recently collaborated with Raf and O on a series of sessions working closely in the same space, in their own words:
“Concocting a deconstructed and layered amalgamation of song, electronic sounds, dense atmospheres and organic instruments, textures and further exploration of fragmentation”
On the evening itself, Robert built up an impressive soundscape in the Church, using modern versions of classic Korg Synthesisers fused with modern digital technologies – the sweetspot where ancient meets postmodern. Even a prayer mat was involved …
If you are bored with hearing template music and want to hear sounds you have never imagined, get hold of some music by these artists for a change …