On clear vinyl
Golden Retriever and Chuck Johnson are artists unified by their ability to build entire ecosystems of sound. As Golden Retriever, bass clarinetist Jonathan Sielaff and synthesist Matt Carlson blur the lines between their respective instruments while guitarist Chuck Johnson is lauded for crafting a diversity of atmospheres, be it through fingerstyle acoustic or droning pedal steel. The combined powers of the trio is intoxicating. On their debut album, Rain Shadow, they combine slowly shifting instrumental layers and clouds of melody and texture, punctuated by emotional peaks. Minimalist approaches compound into maximalist pieces, evoking images of vast open desert and clear skies, simple yet seemingly endless.
Rain Shadow’s title is taken from a natural phenomenon which leaves the plains just beyond mountain ranges desolate and dry. Each piece moves with the ease and progression of a cloud formation. Inside a wash of ever-building layers of drone, subtle movement propels them forward.
The album’s A side emulates the the beauty and solace of these open spaces with lush beds of pedal steel chords and deliberate melodies trading between synthesizer and bass clarinet. Sielaff’s increasingly distorted winds on “Sage Thrasher” gradually guide the ensemble towards the overcast deluge of the album’s second half. The trio utilize steady, imperceptible motion akin to a desert’s wind eroding stones into new and exciting configurations of sound.
The four longform pieces that comprise Rain Shadow were devised entirely remotely. In contrast to the album’s harmonious sound, each member of the trio tracked their performance separately from one another – Johnson from in Oakland, CA, and Sielaff and Carlson each in their Portland, OR homes.
Previous Golden Retriever albums have used live performances as a reference point for arranging and consolidating ideas, but Rain Shadow’s collaboration instead grew from members introducing a simple idea and each other member responding with musical reactions. Johnson’s extended tape loops which gently degrade with each repetition into resonant tones served as the basis for the album’s two longer pieces. Like the phenomenon that inspires the title 3 different forces come together to create something new.
A1 Empty Quarter
B1 Sage Thrasher
B2 Creosote Ring