From the hazy depths of a forgotten cavern deep in the heart of Portland, OR come the peculiar symphonies of experimental electronic duo GOLDEN RETRIEVER. Jonathan Sielaff and Matt Carlson started the project back in 2008 after frequent collaboration between their previous bands Au and Parenthetical Girls. They’ve released a string of releases off killer labels like NNA Tapes and Root Strata, but their latest LP Occupied with the Unspoken, released last month off Thrill Jockey, is perhaps their best yet. Starting from a single looped note, hovering precariously in a sonic void, each of these 4 tracks gradually grows into an elaborate polyphonic harmony through the extended conversation between a bass clarinet and modular synths. Like many contemporary experimental artists, Golden Retriever’s live performance is founded in improvisation, in which elemental notes develop into extended jams that explore every possible dimension of a sound or melody by repeatedly ripping it apart and building it back up, reconfigured. With this recording, they’ve distilled their myriad sonic discoveries into a very concise 9-minute form. Each track is jam packed with a treasure trove of tittilating tones sliding against one another at various tempos, continually melding into one another and splitting apart into new forms. Yet all this activity is so finely tunes, so subtly composed that nothing feels overcrowded, chaotic or out of place. Everything is like one, attuned to the Master Rhythm, unspoken, which underlies all things. Synth-based tunes have often aspired for the transcendent, but those that try to hard typically come off as lame and masturbatory. Not so with this group, whose technical prowess propels their music to dizzying heights, like a mesmerizing Tower of Babel, striving ever-upwards with pulsating electronics that somehow express an organic wholeness and serenity. Like most music discussed on this site, it ain’t for the light-of-heart, but then again, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t looking for something new, something more.
Pick up their new record here, and lets pray these west-coasters make it back east soon to share some of that zen with us.