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Golden Retriever - Light Cones

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Artist: Golden Retriever

Album: Light Cones

Label: Root Strata

Review date: Sep. 16, 2011

Golden Retriever is the Portland, Oregon based duo of Jonathan Sielaff and Matt Carlson. For Light Cones, their second on Root Strata records, the two offer up a couple 20-minute, side-spanning experimental pieces for effected modular synthesizer and bass clarinet, the former recognizably at the center of both pieces. While much of the current synth-focused music is being channeled through a pop lens, Golden Retriever are truly harkening to Fripp and Eno’s No Pussyfooting and Terry Riley’s A Rainbow in Curved Air on this one, opting for a freer form of expression than the majority of their mod-patching, knob-twirling contemporaries.

That’s not to say this duo isn’t precise in their craft. The opening title track fades in with rising and falling pockets of spidery electronics before a stretched-out melody of elongated organ-like bass tones gradually takes over, yielding moments that elicit all the cinematic grandeur of say, Stars of the Lid, or the aforementioned Brian Eno (his ambient series at least). Even in the more cacophonous bouts of psychedelic abstraction that characterize the latter half of the titular A side, each player remains careful not to drown out the other (though it does become difficult to tell what instrument is producing much of the underlying low-end texture). Suffice it to say that in the midst of knuckling down on their own sounds, Sielaff and Carlson still make the effort to listen to what the other guy is doing, which is, what some might say, the life blood of improvisational music.

If Sielaff and Carlson plan anything before they begin a recording session, it’s more likely a mood they’re shooting for or a mutual understanding of where they want to take a particular piece, rather than anything overly rigid. The Root Strata release page for Light Cones describes the first half of the B side as being “more zoned out” than the A, and if that’s what these guys were shooting for then I’d say they nailed it. Weightless synth-lines form a gently swirling hypnosis during the first 10 minutes of “Observer.” The piece soon unfurls into a cosmic free-for-all, much less intense, though not dissimilar, to the opener, before all the sounds become mere ghosts of themselves in a reverberated wash of quiet dissonance. Devotees of late 1960s minimalism best not sleep on Light Cones.

By Adrian Dziewanski

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