We get a lot of synthesizer records in at Norman Towers Mk II these days, so it’s always nice to come across one which messes with the norm a little and gives us something refreshing and unusual to divert us from the tried and tested formulae.
On this record here from Thrill Jockey, duo Golden Retriever combine modular synth from Matt Carlson and bass clarinet from Jonathn Sielaff for a cosmic, loopy and uplifting LP of melodious, emotional ambience. Both the modular synth and the clarinet are instruments which can only provide one note at a time, which gives a pure-melody aspect to these compositions which keeps them from being too overbearing even when they’re Carlson and Sielaff are in full-on weird out mode. Totally amazing front cover illustration here too, with a circle of exploded rubble which on closer inspection contains little bits of analogue machinery. I could stare at it for hours.
Opening with a simple repeating two-note melody on both instruments, first track ‘Serene Velocity’ gradually morphs with looped layers of melody and effect-laden scree to a wildly euphoric mess which then peters out to a swelling, throbbing soundscape with impressive style, the skronky bass clarinet so effect-laden that its tones are almost masked by synthetic sheen as well. The other track on this side, ‘Canopy’, delves more into the astral drone side of things to no less harmonious effect for a relaxing ride through mysterious twittering soundscapes which will really make you happy if you’re into pure synthetic tones and early electronics.
Flip it, though, and things go a little bit darkside, with ‘Eudaimonia’ sounding like an ‘80s soundtrack specifically made for a scene where a supercomputer eats itself, one wire at a time, until it can go no further and drifts through space, twitching and groaning its way through the yawning, shimmering cosmos before an almost Advisory Circle-esque melody comes in for the more uplifting closing passage. Then we’ve just got ‘Winter Light’ left, which is a hazy, somnolent dronescape with crafty little melodic flourishes from both lads for a bit of a smooth jazz take on the synthetic toneworld they’ve created. Makes for a soft landing from this varied and imaginative set. Cool stuff.