“Occupied With The Unspoken is the strongest statement to date from two musicians who know exactly how to make the most of limited means.” – Ian Maleney on Golden Retriever‘s Occupied With The Unspoken.
Golden Retriever have been one of the key names in the west coast synth revival of the past few years. The duo of Jonathan Sielaff and Matt Carlson take elements of free jazz, Californian minimalism and noise and combine that with the sometimes catchier pop leanings of their other bands AU and Parenthetical Girls. They compose polyphonic music on monophonic instruments; namely modular analog synthesizer and bass clarinet. Releases on the likes of Root Strata and Agents of Chaos have seen them explore this relationship with some very interesting results, though it has been their sublime live shows which have been mostly responsible for their esteem.
Occupied With The Unspoken might go some way towards redressing that balance. Made up of four pieces, each coming in around the nine-minute mark, the album is relatively concise. Each track was cut down from much longer live jams and Matt Carlson’s editing skills have got better with each new release, meaning this one is focused and rich in detail without ever over-staying its welcome.
Opening track ‘Serene Velocity‘ is aptly titled and sets out the Golden Retriever stall pretty well. In it, Carlson and Sielaff begin with a fizzy synth line before melodies begin to crash in on top of it from every direction, picking up pace and texture as it goes along. Over the course of nine minutes, every element becomes richer and more powerful, filling out the spectral image until it reaches maximum joy and quickly descends back into noise before falling away again. It’s quite a rush.
Given the monophonic nature of their instruments, Carlson and Sielaff are driven towards melody more often than not. They layer sounds with delay and phaser to create soundscapes out of single notes, before some melodic line breaks through. ‘Canopy‘ focuses on the background textures created and it’s droning beauty goes relatively undisturbed. ‘Eudamonia‘ begins in noise and chaos before leveling out and ascending again into beautiful texture.
‘Winter Light‘ closes out proceedings and it is perhaps the best track here. Slow, measured and beautiful, it is the jazziest of the lot in its melodies though they are supported on a low bass drone that pulses ominously below. It is a track full of confidence and subtlety, detail and pleasure, characteristics that mark the album as a whole. Occupied With The Unspoken is the strongest statement to date from two musicians who know exactly how to make the most of limited means.