Golden Retriever is the duo of Matt Carlson (modular synthesizer) and Jonathan Sielaff (bass clarinet), two musicians who blur the line between sounds created electronically and acoustically. The pair formed Golden Retriever in 2008 and began to develop a language informed by the practices of free improvisation as well as the tradition of American experimental electronic composers like Alvin Curran & David Behrman. Golden Retriever creates music that is creatively challenging and structurally complex while remaining inviting and emotionally dynamic rather than adopting a confrontational stance toward the listener.
Seer, their second release for Thrill Jockey, was recorded and assembled over the course of two years at the artists’ studio “Worksound” in Portland, OR. The relaxed timetable gave Carlson and Sielaff an opportunity to write based around new instruments and techniques and to spend considerable time meticulously editing the work. This extends the process employed on their Thrill Jockey debut Occupied with the Unspoken, composing and arranging using editing as a compositional tool.
The opening track “Petrichor” shows Carlson using an 11-limit just intonation system and can, if listened to at a significant volume, create otoacoustic emissions: the generation of new resonance within the inner-ear as a rectification of two perfectly toned and opposing frequencies. The use of this phenomenon as musical material was pioneered by Maryanne Amacher in her sound installations of the 70s and 80s. The song “Sharp Stones” finds Sielaff weaving complex melodic phrases over Carlson’s bed of synth-processed piano sounds, toying with the gestures of modal free jazz. Their ability to move between abstract sound exploration and traditionally engaging musical structures is demonstrated perfectly on “Flight Song,” which features a mantra-like bass clarinet melody beholden to shimmering synthesizer patterns. Golden Retriever’s compositions are inviting and relentlessly listenable, embracing both emotional depth and wild abandon without betraying the hidden framework of complexity within.