RAF AND O – South-East London Avant-Pop duo Raf and O AKA Raf Mantelli and O Richard Smith have marked out their unique and widely acclaimed song and sound world over the last decade with the release of four albums, A Giant In The Snow (2010) Time Machine (2014), Portal (2016) and The Space Between Nothing And Desire (2019). Hailed by The Quietus, FACT (Time Machine was Top 10 albums of 2014 picked by Joe Muggs), Electronic Sound and praised by many for their unique live set-up and detailed blend of electronic and acoustic sonic landscape, emotional depth of songwriting and intensity of performance, their explorations to date also include setting music to Shakespeare, composing for theatre, performing entirely acoustic interpretations of early Kate Bush and with special collaborations under their belt, Raf and O have played venues such as The Queen Elizabeth Hall where they were special guests in Richard Strange’s production for William S. Burroughs Centenary and The Union Chapel where they were invited to celebrate Bowie’s life and work. Contributing tracks and remixes to releases including Mitra Music For Nepal alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto and Nick Cave, the pair have collaborated with Gagarin (Pere Ubu, Nico), Robert Logan (Grace Jones), Blk Tag, Kumo (Irmin Schmidt, Can) released a number of EPs and were remixed by legendary Charles Hayward of This Heat fame.
In 2019 Raf and O returned with their fourth full length album ‘The Space Between Nothing And Desire’, theatrical and arty, the album earned accolades from the press and was described as sublime, astonishing, enthralling and irresistible. The leading track ‘A Bow To Bowie’ is a heartfelt song written by the duo dedicated to the artist himself. Raf and O celebrated Bowie several times, they played the remake of legendary Beckenham Free Festival, were featured on David Bowie Official and amongst their supporters, Mike Garson, David Bowie’s pianist and long term collaborator praised Raf and O for their version of Lady Grinning Soul. Over the years the duo have expressed their affinity with Bowie taking on the task to reinterpret some of his songs and in November 2020 they launched their ‘Children Of The Bewlay Brothers’ alter-ego live on their one year long virtual tour,i mmersing themselves in renditions and interpretations of ‘the man who sang himself to Earth’.
The Tour Online 2020 – 2021 saw the pair performing as Raf and O, The Kick Inside – The Songs of Kate Bush and Children Of The Bewlay Brothers (to David Bowie with Love).
“From the poignant to the provocative to the playful ‘The Space Between Nothing And Desire’ is wonderfully theatrical and, unless you’re made of stone, quite irresistible . It begins with ‘A Bow To Bowie’ an enthralling tribute to one of Raf & O’s main inspirations. The intensity is off the scale.” 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
“Sublime in execution, subtle but with a real depth and levity, TSBNAD is an astonishing piece of new romantic, avant-theater pop and electronica that dares to unlock the mind and fathom emotion. Raf’s vocals are extraordinary: on the surface vulnerable and stark yet beneath lies a steely intensity that often whips, lashes and jolts. A masterclass of pulchritude magnificence” Dominic Valvona, MONOLITH COCKTAIL
“Stark and otherworldly, a haunting ode, subtle swelling bricolage of ghostly synths, tumbling acoustic notes and a bass drum that thuds like a heartbeat throughout. While Raf’s almost otherworldly almost jazz-like vocals spiral across the upper register with echoes of Kate Bush at her most avant-garde” Bill Cummings, GOD IS IN THE TV ZINE
“Raf and O are totally unique” John Clarkson, PENNYBLACKMUSIC
Raf Mantelli – Vocals, ‘Star’ acoustic guitar, acoustic piano, synths, electronics.
Richard Smith (O) – Synths, electronics, electro/ acoustic drums & triggers, guitar, double bass.