I don't think it's simply a coincidence that the cover art of this newest release from Rafael Toral features photos of high-tension power lines towering massively over rather nondescript landscapes while bathed in the almost purple hues of a setting sun. On Harmonic Series 2, he takes the sounds of three different inputs and distills them down to their most base levels, creating one long droning piece that almost sounds like the musical equivalent of those humming tones that you can hear when standing under such large conduits of electricity.
Filtering computer-generated sinewave, guitar, and analog electronics through custom-made software, Toral is moving in much different directions here than he has even in the past. This is not a release for those with a short attention span or those adverse to extremely minimal electronic music. Over the course of 43 minutes, a series of very subtlely changing tones overlap and change, forcing the listener to have patience and wait for very small movements in sound.
Having toured and collaborated with everyone from Sonic Youth to Phil Niblock to Christian Fennesz and John Zorn, Toral definitely has a high pedigree in terms his output, but while this piece has interesting theory behind it, it sounds like something created to accompany an installation of some sort rather than a casual listening experience. Because of the building blocks of the piece, it completely falls into the realm of cold electronic music and even as a variable-attention ambient piece it feels too invasive. Although there is an ocassional flicker of warmth, it's nearly impossible to take the somewhat harsh edge off the sound of the buzzing sinewave, and in the end Harmonic Series 2 feels more like a clinical experiment in alien landscapes or an attempt to portray musically the sound of the energy powering the performance.