Golden Retriever was started in 2008 by Jonathan Sielaff and Matt Carlson whose paths first crossed in the early 00’s when Sielaff and Carlson were in experimental pop bands that frequently worked together, Au and Parenthetical Girls respectively. Through collaboration, they developed a deep understanding of each other’s musical voice and sensibilities. After exchanging a few solo recordings, it became clear that they had remarkably similar aspirations for and theories on music, thus Golden Retriever was born.
On their Thrill Jockey debut Occupied with the Unspoken, Golden Retriever create polyphonic music from monophonic instruments. The bass clarinet and the analog modular synthesizer are generally both capable of playing only one note at a time. Starting from this point of pure melody, Golden Retriever then find ways to turn melody into harmony using their “boring old one-note instruments” to make live electronic music that is remarkably rich in textural details and almost symphonic in its use of layering. Though the music is often classified as experimental, its most salient feature is melody. It is made remarkable by the ease at which it takes the disparate elements of minimalism, free jazz, noise, classical, and even pop and shapes it all into something emotionally compelling.
Recorded live, but then heavily edited in Carlson’s basement studio, Occupied with the Unspoken’s songs are more concise then those found on Light Cones or in their typical live performance, where often Sielaff and Carlson allow room for exploration and re-invention of their material. The four songs presented here were typically performed as 25 or 30 minutes pieces. For the album, the songs were distilled into shorter passages where the original structure remains, but each section within the overall song has been shortened. The process allowed Sielaff and Carlson to fit more ideas into the album, and taken as a whole it is a more complete document of their stylistic variety than previous releases. While many of the compositional ideas behind the tracks are complicated, Occupied with the Unspoken excels in being an approachable listen. An impressive album of soaring melodic lines and vivid soundscapes, the aptly named Occupied with the Unspoken belies the complex creative process making the understanding of it merely an exciting bonus.