Raf and O are Raf Mantelli and Richard Smith (O). The two piece band from South East London deliver a vortex of live electronics, acoustic instruments and fragile, magnetic, strange lullabies married to a pop spirit.
Garnering widespread acclaim in the UK / Europe and later US and Canada since 2008, Raf and O, AKA Raf Mantelli and Richard Smith (O) from South East London have created a buzz with exciting performances of their unique detailed avant-pop, fusing electro/ acoustic drums, vocals, synths, live electronics, acoustic guitar and fx. Supporting artists such as Faust, Little Annie Bandez, they were special guests in Richard Strangeʼs production for William S. Burroughs centenary in the grand settings of Queen Elizabeth Hall, they were praised by Bowieʼs pianist Mike Garson for their unique interpretation of Lady Grinning Soul and following a live BBC session, performed at the legendary Beckenham Free Festival Remake (Memory Of A Free Festival 2013/ 2014) and featured on David Bowie Official. In 2014, Raf and O released their second album ‘Time Machine’ and eponymous ‘Time Machine’ EP on Telephone Records (with remixes by Merlin & Charles Hayward of This Heat fame, Kumo, collaborator of Irmin Schmidt from Can and Robert Logan, electronic composer, contributor to Grace Jones‘ releases) to wondrous press acclaim.
The album made the Top 10 albums list of 2014 picked by Joe Muggs on FACT Magazine , they were featured on Ableton Live Expert and was reviewed, amongst others, in the Quietus by legendary journalist David Stubbs.
“The excellent Time Machine represents the very antithesis of EDM …There is a butterfly, acoustic delicacy about tracks like ‘Mad And Brilliant’, 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… The album takes a lovely turn with a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ from Aladdin Sane, a theme song for an imaginary Bond movie, whose warm, analogue synth waves remind of Brian Eno circa Before And After Science …Freeze-frame any given second of this album and it’ll reveal a hive of pixellated, analogue activity.” DAVID STUBBS, THE QUIETUS
Recently Raf and O were invited to celebrate Bowieʼs life with a performance at the Union Chapel, and composed music for the theatre play ‘That Woman’s Voiceʼ a Tribute to Jean Cocteau and The Human Voice’ staged at Camden Fringe Festival. They featured on Mitra Music for Nepal, a compilation to help the victims of the disaster, with a previously unrealesed track ‘With Fatzer’, alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto, The The, Nick Cave, Attrition, Anni Hogan (Marc and the Mambas) and many others. Collaborations include working with Gagarin (Nico, Pere Ubu), Washington based Blk Tag, Emmy nominated electronic composer and Robert Logan (Grace Jones). Raf and O’s latest split EP ‘Sonnet 62/ Ink’ features two collaborations with Logan. The three spent a series of sessions working closely in the same space, concocting a deconstructed and layered amalgamation of song, electronic sounds, dense atmospheres and organic instruments, textures and further exploration of fragmentation.
“Seductive and alien, a machine driven twitchy gallop into the ether…Raf, sounding at her most rich and mature vocally, soothes and coos like a cross between Beth Gibbons and a female David Sylvian” Dominic Valvona, MONOLITH COCKTAIL
Raf and O are releasing their third album ‘Portalʼ on Telephone Records. From the spiralling and climaxing ‘Dream Machine’ which opens the album, inspired by the Flicker documentary and later performed at the Burroughs centenary, to the evocative landscape of ‘Sonnet 62’ where the pair have set music to Shakespeare, to the autumnal sound of ‘Drunk’; here Raf explores her Florentine roots within a narrative set by her auntie’s 1960’s poetry and memory. From ‘Win’, a new Raf and O interpretation of Bowie’s classic track on ‘Young Americans’ and the intense quasi-pop ‘Echoes’ (live) taken from the 2014 Beckenham bandstand performance, to the textural landscape of ‘Mona Lisa Smiles II’ and the narcotic effect of ‘The Deadliest Flower’.
The Album launch is in London, 22nd July 2016 at St James The Less, Westminster, promoted by Kaparte.
Raf Mantelli – Vocals, ‘Star’ acoustic guitar, synths, electronics.
Richard Smith (O) – Electro/ acoustic drums & DIY triggers, synths, electronics.