About

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 three albums, A Giant In The Snow (2010) Time Machine (2014) and Portal (2016). 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.

Amongst their supporters, Mike Garson, David Bowie’s pianist and long term collaborator praised the duo for their version of Lady Grinning Soul. Over the years Raf and O have expressed their affinity with Bowie and took on the task to reinterpret some of his songs. They played the remake of legendary Beckenham Free Festival and were featured on David Bowie Official.

In 2019 Raf and O return with their fourth full length album ‘The Space Between Nothing And Desire’ and their leading track ‘A Bow To Bowie’ a heartfelt song written by the duo dedicated to the artist himself.
Theatrical and arty, the album to be released on May 31st is already earning accolades from the press having been described as sublime, astonishing, enthralling and irresistible.

The Album launches, May 26, London, Servant Jazz Quarters promoted by Kaparte.

“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.

Raf and O live at Starman Bowie Celebration, Union Chapel

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  • Archives

  • BUY THE SPACE BETWEEN NOTHING AND DESIRE CD Album HERE

    BUY DIGITAL HERE

    “The intensity is off the scale. It begins with ‘A Bow To Bowie’ an enthralling tribute to one of Raf & O’s main inspirations.. while the charming ‘Underwater Blue’ will go down in pop history as the track that launched the snorkelectro scene..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.”

    ELECTRONIC SOUND

    “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”

    GOD IS IN THE TV ZINE

    “This is a strange and luscious album”

    JOE MUGGS

    “A defiantly original act, one which one can listen to time over and still find something new, and with ‘The Space Between Nothing and Desire’ they have created an album that is as daring as it is compelling”

    PENNYBLACKMUSIC

    “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..a masterclass of pulchritude magnificence. Imbued by both the musicality and spirit of David Bowie, Scott Walker, David Sylvian (both as a solo artist and with the fey romantics Japan), Kate Bush and in their most avant-garde mode, Bjork, the South London based duo of Raf (Raf Mantelli) and O (Richard Smith) occupy the perimeters of alternative art-rock and experimental electronica as the true inheritors of those cerebral inspirations”

    MONOLITH COCKTAIL

    “An audio voyage that seems to bridge the gap between cosmos and earth as the record develops.’A Bow to Bowie’ gazes explicitly heavenward, combining respectful, open sincerity with sheer intelligence and wit, absorbing musical and lyrical references to the song’s subject into a structure all their own. The title track is almost a battery-operated torch song, Raf’s sensual, almost swinging vocal conjuring up a kind of electronic chanson.

    ADRIAN SPECS

  • BUY PORTAL CD Album HERE

    PORTAL ALBUM LAUNCH is PENNYBLACK MUSIC GIG OF THE YEAR 2016 picked by John Clarkson

    “Raf and O specialise in floaty and delicate musical paintings. Raf’s dreamy vocals leading the way but more often than not melting into the instrumentation. The highlights include a track based on the words of Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 62’ and a version of David Bowie’s ‘Win’ which is almost unrecognisable and utterly charming. All in all, this is beautiful stuff.”

    Push, ELECTRONIC SOUND

    “Raf and O are a band of kaleidoscopic, unusual ideas, and, with ‘Portal’, they have created a remarkable record. There is a celestial, otherworldly element to them…they are totally unique”

    PENNYBLACKMUSIC MAGAZINE

    “A further voyage into their adventurous musical dreams, spliced with the literary influences of William Seward Burroughs and Shakespeare.”

    GOD IS IN THE TV ZINE

    “The sublime new album by Raf and O is called ‘Portal’.
    It’s very difficult to choose highlights from such a consistently winning record”

    ADRIAN SPECS

    “Raf and O’s gothic and magical references are twisted to conjure up ominous visions, to a backing track of free-spirited avant-jazz drumming, trip-hop and contorted machine music …from esoteric Italian to plague originated nursery rhyme English, on ‘Drunk’, to channeling a smoky bar room Scott Walker vibe, on ‘Neurons’… Paying homage once again to their biggest inspiration, David Bowie, the duo transforms the original into a beautifully melting, strung-out plucked love recital. Brilliantly shimmering with an affectionate, ruminating and heart-aching vocal … the album cementing the partnership’s unique narratives and poetic views of a machine age and cybernetic world”

    MONOLITH COCKTAIL

    “I was at the QEH for a Burroughs night, where I saw Raf Mantelli and O Richard Smith, aka Raf and O, deliver a superb if too short set to the large and appreciative audience they really deserve.”

    DAVID STUBBS

    “If you are looking for instant gratification in a busy world, try listening to “The Deadliest Flower” or “Magic” to give you an insight into just one window pane of their diverse work”

    HUMAN DYNAMICS

  • BUY SONNET 62/ INK EP – OUT NOW

    ‘Seductive and alien…Aboard a haunted freighter in the deepest reaches of deep space…soothes and coos like a cross between Beth Gibbons and a female David Sylvian…It is both equally seductive and alien, a machine driven twitchy gallop into the ether. Creeping into the dense hallucinatory environment of ‘A Reason To Try’, the trio stir untethered in a strange soup of churned up beats and solar tidal waves’

    MONOLITH COCKTAIL

  • BUY TIME MACHINE CD Album HERE

    FACT magazine Top 10 album of 2014 picked by Joe Muggs

    “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…Freeze-frame any given second of this album and it’ll reveal a hive of pixellated, analogue activity…As with Time Machine as a whole, it’s an approach you’d do well to take up, if you know what’s good for you.”

    DAVID STUBBS, THE QUIETUS

    “One of the more memorable events of the Beckenham Festival in September 2013 was RAF AND O’s haunting performance of David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul”

    DAVID BOWIE OFFICIAL

    “A beguiling slice of noir-pop…a total treat”

    THE GIRLS ARE

    “Tripped-out hypnotic Raf and O embody the exploratory art school/mime period Bowie. Their sound springs from a conjuncture of Aladdin Sane and The Man Who Fell To Earth, but with an added allure of trip-hop…Tender and diaphanous, from bent out of shape Air meets folkloric avant-noir to ESG and Radiohead’s Hail To The Thief”

    MONOLITH COCKTAIL

    “Whispering their song like tomorrow’s cautionary lullabies sent backward to today as an omen of intrigue.”

    IMPOSE MAGAZINE

  • BUY TIME MACHINE EP HERE

    “Interstellar spaciousness”

    EXCLAIM MAGAZINE

    “Four versions of the leading ‘Time Machine’ journey beyond the stratosphere, kooky, mysterious and breathy, attracting an impressive trio of sonic cosmonauts”

    MONOLITH COCKTAIL

  • BUY LADY GRINNING SOUL/ THE FOG HERE

    “Very creative. I enjoyed it a lot”

    MIKE GARSON

    “Raf and O caress Bowie”

    BOWIE WONDERWORLD

    “A moving Avant – Bizarre version of Lady Grinning Soul”

    GOD IS IN THE TV ZINE

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