Mesmerizing Portland duo Golden Retriever return to Chicago on Sunday | Bleader

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mesmerizing Portland duo Golden Retriever return to Chicago on Sunday

Posted By on 10.30.15 at 05:45 PM

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click to enlarge Golden Retriever - SARAH MEADOWS
  • Sarah Meadows
  • Golden Retriever

It's been more than three years since the peculiar Portland duo called Golden Retriever played in Chicago, when it made its local debut at the Empty Bottle in May of 2012. Clarinetist Jonathan Sielaff and synthesizer player Matt Carlson have only released one new recording since then, but they were quite productive beforehand, churning out a pile of releases between 2010 and 2012, including four full albums and a handful of shorter things. Golden Retriever returns to town this weekend, performing Sunday night at Elastic, which I hope anticipates an uptick in activity.

Earlier this year the Portland label Debacle released the group's second album from 2010, 2, on vinyl (originally only on CD-R in an edition of 100). Though Golden Retriever has largely abandoned the relatively sprawling, long-form approach here—when they were clearly ingesting copious doses of 70s-era Terry Riley—the music is great. It's rich in swirling counterpoint, with all sorts of keyboard-created cycling patterns that surround hypnotic long tones and slow-moving melodic shapes. Below you can hear the entirety of the side-long "A."

Sunday's concert is also the duo's first in Chicago since it released last year's impressive Seer (Thrill Jockey), a more concise effort on which each of the five tracks are shorter and more focused. The opener "Petrichor" conveys a surprising darkness, with Sielaff laying down low-end hallucinations over Carlson's synthetic starbursts, while the spacious "Sharp Stones" presents bass clarinet and piano without a whole lot of electronic enhancement—at least during its first half—apart from a heavy wash of dubby milkiness. Below you can hear the jewellike "Flight Song," where, as on most of the album, Sielaff's bass clarinet playing is heavily transformed by electronic effects—it registers as something between one of those weird Electronic Winds Instruments played by Sun Ra reedist Marshall Allen and a synthesizer. Multiple lines and twinkling arpeggios cushion those melancholy reed patterns and generate a sumptuous bounty of pulsations, curlicues, and shimmering threads.

Today's playlist:

Flying Lotus, You're Dead (Warp)
The Gay Family, God Will Take Care of You (Gospel Friend)
Marc-André Hamelin, Schumann: Kinderszenen, Janácek, On the Overgrown Path I (Hyperion)
The Roots, . . . And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (Def Jam)
John Luther Adams, Become Ocean (Cantaloupe)

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