RAF & O: Has The Air Gone Walking? (Geo)


Posted on Feb 27th 2008 10:43 pm

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Raf & O: Has The Air Gone Walking?

Has The Air Gone Walking?
Geo Records 2008
04 Tracks. 17mins38secs
Format: 10″

From the collision of sounds that comes together on the opening seconds of this debut EP, there is little doubt that Raf and O are something new. The shrill, off-kilter vocals of Italian singer Raf Mantelli married to the cool electronics of glitch producer Gagarin fuse together a sound that is often enthralling and occasionally perplexing, but always full of interest.

The collaboration – which also features a low-key Richard Smith on bass – is the first step in the relaunch of Geo Records, whose output has so far largely been of Gagarin’s – a.k.a. Graham Dowdall’s – solo efforts. It continues a long tradition of working with other musicians that has kept Dowdall busy since the early 1980s. His polished CV reveals long stints with the likes of John Cale and Nico as well as more recent work with Pere Ubu.

Now though he has turned rather boldly to the far less heralded figure of Mantelli, who with Smith met Dowdall at Goldsmiths University of London where he teaches. Although Raf and O have already gigged extensively in London – supporting both Faust and Alabama 3 – the strange fusion of Lamb-like pop and Dowdall’s electronics still sounds like a work in progress. But what has to be wondered is whether the well-regarded merits of Gagarin’s style are hampered or enhanced by Mantelli’s vocals, which sometimes threaten to overwhelm the mix. The lilt of her vocals verges on the unique, but at times – such as in opener Sky – the temptation to give free rein to her peculiar talents has rather awkward results. Still, the track has a floating, hypnotic quality that almost allows its flaws to be overlooked.

Elsewhere, the arrangement is calmer and altogether more convincing. Cycad and 7 Blue have a coolness and a control that shows the band in a much better light. And the poise of Squeezebox, which tail-ends the EP, has a delicacy and swooning sadness that hints at great promise for the future.

There are further releases scheduled for Geo later this year and, if Raf and O are on that list, the results could well be intriguing.


Icon: arrow Raf & O (MySpace) | Geo Records (MySpace)

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