Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Electronic, Experimental, Ambient, Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Post-Rock
Golden Retriever is the uncommon duo of modular synthesizer player and keyboardist Matt Carlson and bass clarinet player Jonathan Sielaff. With third album Seer, the duo stretched out in both recording and composition, putting the album together over the course of two years in their home studio in Portland, Oregon. Over the album's five tracks the two expand their range greatly over previous releases, delving into microtonal electronics and fuzzy, chunky horn riffs on opening track "Petrichor," with plinky acoustic piano and choppily edited electronics as well as drawn-out playing in a spiritual, exploratory mode from Sielaff.
Emerging from the American underground new age resurgence, which has gained steam within the last few years, modular synth wizard Matt Carlson and bass clarinettist Jonathan Sielaff have proven to be consistent at honing their singular brand of hypnotizing tunesmithery. Seer is the duo's sophomore effort for the Thrill Jockey imprint, following a handful of ultra-limited releases for micro-labels like Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's Root Strata and Burlington, Vermont's NNA Tapes. The new record finds them expanding on the melodic textures and evocative noises that emanated from previous outings.
Jonathan Sielaff and Matt Carlson of Golden Retriever look toward the cosmic and the karmic, favoring set-it-and-forget-it synth jams that seem ripped from 1970s Germany; they’re scientific and mechanical in their construction, but they still imbue their work with emotion. Perhaps because they come from free improv backgrounds, Golden Retriever’s early cassette and CD-R releases leaned toward steady-state, circuitous instrumental pieces rather than the dramatic engagement of their recent work. Seer, their second record for Thrill Jockey and third LP overall, seems particularly laser-guided in its looping and loping melodies.
Naming a record Seer ensures that it’s only ever going to be the second-best record with that name (Swans have the top spot covered by some margin), but it also gives listeners a clue as to what direction they’re going to be taken over the course of the record. It’s the first release from Golden Retriever since 2012’s epic Occupied With The Unspoken, where Matt Carlson (modular synthesiser) and Jonathan Sielaff (bass clarinet) composed four minimal yet constantly shifting polyphonic pieces on monophonic instruments. Golden Retriever’s Seer aims for the same cosmos-straddling, star-melting vibe M Gira conjured on his Seer, as evidenced by the enormous sound evidenced over the course of the album.
On their fifth release, this Portland, Oregon, drone duo finally find the perfect balance between Matt Carlson's twinkling, modular synths and the bluesy cry of Jonathan Sielaff's bass clarinet. The album shortens their chain of effects pedals so the clarinet can sound like a woodwind instead of cosmic mush, making Seer more like an ambient-jazz record by Brian Eno pal Jon Hassell than an experimental electro-acoustic composition. Full of church bells, chirping birds, poked pianos and a reedy honk that sounds like Eno's guitar tone on Here Come the Warm Jets, the equally comforting and unsettling Seer plays like the album equivalent of Twin Peaks' swaying stoplight.
Portland duo Matt Carlson and Jonathan Sielaff spent two years working on ‘Seer’, their fourth album, on which they aim to make music that’s both challenging and inviting, using just a modular synthesizer and a bass clarinet. Opening track ‘Petrichor’ is certainly a trial, layering ominously ringing notes with clarinet blasts and coming on like the soundtrack to your worst nightmares, while the rest of the five-track record flits between welcoming and uncomfortable. ‘Sharp Sounds’ takes on a gentle, jazzy tone and ‘Archipelago’ is initially calm, before its tweeting birds work themselves up into a flurry of manic, unnerving chirping.
Seer, Portland duo Golden Retriever’s second release for Thrill Jockey, is an album deeply committed to defamiliarization. A collection of five suite-length songs, Seer constantly throbs and quakes with new sounds that float in and out of the sonic field, seemingly from nowhere, as difficult to place as they are to define. Matt Carlson and Jonathan Sielaff seem to be captivated not only by the possibilities of their diffuse approach to electronic music – frequently scooping out any direct notion of rhythm in favor of long squalls and glacier-like chords – but also by the difficulty in naming what might even be producing its palette of lush, baroque sounds.