Portland modular-synth dynamo Matt Carlson makes his Chicago debut | Bleader

Portland modular-synth dynamo Matt Carlson makes his Chicago debut


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Matt Carlson
  • Matt Carlson
On Saturday local experimental music presenter Lampo opens its three-concert spring season at the Graham Foundation with the Chicago debut of Matt Carlson of Portland, Oregon, who's perhaps slightly better known as half of the duo Golden Retriever (and a former member of Parenthetical Girls). Late last year Carlson released a solo stunner, Particle Language (Draft), which collected seven mind-warping analog-synthesizer excursions, occasionally enhanced by electronically treated vocals. In his work with Golden Retriever, who recently signed to Thrill Jockey and will make their Chicago debut opening for the Sea and Cake at the Empty Bottle on May 8, Carlson displays a strong melodic sensibility, shaping sweet-toned lines that swirl around Jonathan Sielaff's heavily processed bass clarinet, but on his own he investigates more abstract terrain.

The language of 60s electronic music is audible in Carlson's bulbous tones, high-frequency squelches, rubbery pulses, and birdlike bleeps, but he draws on ideas and motifs from all over for his rich sound palette. He organizes his dense surfeit of material in fast-building peaks and valleys, with one idea rapidly flowing into the next; throbbing, nonpercussive synthetic rhythms and glowing textures support front-line melodic shapes that never settle into fixed patterns. I'm not sure about Carlson's setup—and it doesn't matter that much to me—but the photo in the album insert pictures him playing some kind early digital keyboard and singing into a microphone that has a huge rectangular modular synth behind it, patch cords snaking all over the place.

Since Particle Language Carlson has released a split album with Seattle modular-synth jockey Jason E. Anderson: on his side of Dissociative Synthesis (UFO Mongo), the sounds are a bit harsher and colder, but the music is no less gripping. Below you can hear a track from Particle Language and watch an episode of a Portland-based TV show called Experimental Half-Hour that features Carlson in the guise of self-help guru Merv—which isn't what I'd expect from him this weekend at all. Rather he'll be performing work in four channels for the first time.

The other concerts in Lampo's current season are by John Wiese (May 12) and Joseph Hammer (June 16), also at the Graham Foundation. Saturday's concert is free, but reservations are highly recommended.

Matt Carlson, "The Perceptron"

photo: Brenna Murphy

Today's playlist:

Joe Henderson, In 'n Out (Blue Note)
Osmar Milito, . . . E Deixa o Relogio Andar! (Som Livre)
The Work, The 4th World (Ad Hoc)
Various artists, Java Java Java Java (17 North Parade/VP)
The Triffids, Born Sandy Devotional (Domino)

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