Raf and O – ‘The Space Between Nothing And Desire’ ALBUM LAUNCH
Raf and O AKA Raf Mantelli and O Richard Smith return with their fourth album ‘The Space Between Nothing And Desire’ (TSBNAD) on Telephone Records. Having marked out their unique and widely acclaimed song and sound world over the last decade, the South East London duo have released three widely acclaimed full length albums to date (A Giant In The Snow 2010, Time Machine 2014, Portal 2016).
Hailed by The Quietus, FACT (Time Machine was Top 10 albums of 2014 picked by Joe Muggs on FACT) and Electronic Sound amongst many others, for their unique detailed avant-pop, amongst their explorations they have set music to Shakespeare, composed music for theatre and with special collaborations under their belt, they’ve played venues such as The Queen Elizabeth Hall and The Union Chapel. Recently establishing a side project ‘The Kick Inside’, an interpretative acoustic celebration of Kate Bush’s early albums performed entirely on vocals, piano and double bass, Raf and O were also praised by Mike Garson, David Bowie’s pianist/ long-term collaborator for their unique interpretation of Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul.
“Raf and O specialise in floaty and delicate musical paintings – beautiful stuff” – Push, Electronic Sound
“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” – David Stubbs, The Quietus
“Superbohemian, super kooky – the sort of record that makes it feel like John Peel is still alive” – Joe Muggs, FACT Magazine
With ‘The Space Between Nothing And Desire’ the duo go in search of a new quest: where, or, what is the space between nothing and desire? The primal concept that makes the world go round, desire, is abstract and yet so tangible, juxtaposed to nothing, equally as baffling, as to truly imagine it, it is impossible. With these parameters forming their chart, the latest album captures the duo navigating a journey into the senses, into the longing and the belonging, featuring Raf’s distinctive and beautiful vocals delivering haunting and soaring melodies throughout. From the off kilter avant popness and detailed imagery of the album title track, to the post dub sensibilities of ‘Anger’, from the otherworldly sensuality tinged in 50s futuristic sound of ‘Underwater Blue’ to the epic psychological journey of ‘Your Gazing Stare’ and to the warped carousel and down right catchiness of ‘A Mechanical Ride’.
The leading track from Raf and O’s new album is ‘A Bow To Bowie’. Here the duo pay respect to David Bowie with a beautiful, minimal and heartfelt song, an acoustic guitar, synths and vocals swelling and soaring, while a constant bass drum like a heartbeat underpins the track. Over the years Raf and O have expressed their affinity with Bowie and took on the task to reinterpret some of his songs. ‘A Bow To Bowie’ was written in December 2016, Raf says: “I really wanted to write a song for David after his passing, but it took me a few months before I felt I could tackle it”.
The album also presents a haunting reinterpretation of a Scott Walker composition from his first album, ‘Such A Small Love’ which was first heard on the Scott Walker compilation for God Is In The TV Zine. Alongside Raf and O’s more familiar electro acoustic world featuring vocals, electronics, synths, drums and acoustic guitar, the pair introduce two tracks performed solely on acoustic piano, vocals (Raf) and guitar (O). Whilst in this “swapped role” mode, as generally O is on synths/ drums and Raf on guitar, they explore an acoustic minimalism, creating a spectacularly enchanting world in ‘Haunted’, an original composition and ‘The London Boys’, a David Bowie reinterpretation of a more obscure track from the mid 60s, both tracks presenting another facet to their sound that effortlessly snake around the rest of the more electronic tracks. The piano, this time alongside electronics, can be also heard on The Windmill and on ‘With Fatzer’ (previously released on the ‘Mitra Music For Nepal’ compilation alongside works from Ryuichi Sakamoto and Nick Cave). Inspired by Fatzer, an unfinished play by Bertold Brecht reworked for the stage by Mark Von Henning and set during WW1, Raf and O’s ‘With Fatzer’, beautifully depicts a desolate world with no apparent future, the characters seeking consolation in brief and intense sexual encounters.