Talkdemonic: Beat Romantic

Talkdemonic's Beat Romantic fuses elements of classical composition with IDM, jazz beats, and thoughtfully placed organic filigree, making for a very lovely and engaging album of hypnotic melancholy and meditative bliss.


Beat Romantic

Label: Arena Rock
US Release Date: 2006-03-21
UK Release Date: 2006-03-21

Here in Portland, Oregon, home of both Talkdemonic and yours truly, the weekly culture rag, Willamette Week, named the duo of Kevin O'Connor and Lisa Molinaro the best new band of 2005. Initially, I was disappointed that my own indie-rockin' quintet didn't receive said honor. (Despite our lack of merchandise, shifting line-up, absence from the press, and patchy live schedule, I thought we'd totally killed in '05!) But it takes only one listen to the quietly beguiling sounds of Talkdemonic to realize that they are well deserving of that accolade.

Originally conceived by O'Connor, Talkdemonic began as a solo project in which he played live drums along with laptopped ambient synth patterns, piano melodies, and guitar plinkings. This solo phase of the act's existence culminated in Talkdemonic's 2004 debut, Mutiny Sunshine. It's a pretty record and quite accomplished, but it never manages to crawl out from under the shadow of, well, DJ Shadow. With a downtempo mood, post-hip-hop beats, and a collagey shifting of ideas, Mutiny Sunshine seems beholden to the recent past. Still, the promise of future rewards was great.

In the summer of 2004, occasional contributor and graceful violist Lisa Molinaro officially joined the ranks of Talkdemonic, stretching the band's sound and carrying it to its own unique realm. In fact, the first track on Beat Romantic, their sophomore release and first with wide distribution, features only the aching-yet-bucolic legato lines of Molinaro's viola. Double-tracked, she introduces a low drone before her lovely lead melody ascends to carry the piece. Do you see that dusky, aspen-lined path on the album's cover? The becalmed loneliness of this opening song is the soundtrack to a place exactly like that. The band's sound broadens slowly on the following track, "Mountaintops in Caves", as stuttering IDM beats are joined by a plucked, vaguely Asian melody line worthy of the Books. Here, Molinaro keeps to the backdrop until, for the song's final forty seconds, her sympathetic and mournful playing slowly rises up into the mix, just as O'Connor's live drumming begins. He is a very tasteful drummer, indeed, his cymbal crashes rolling like waves and his accents swinging like a jazzman's. This beat aesthetic is similar to Keiran Hebden's, a blissful reminder of Four Tet's phenomenal 2003 album, Rounds. Beat Romantic feels aloft, in much the same way. There are pauses and moments of spacious restraint, but there is always a warm updraft, a steady current flowing through the music. Even when Talkdemonic offer us little surprises, these are as gifts. We are challenged just enough to remain stimulated, but mostly we are taken care of. By the album's end, we are returned safely to earth, back to the wooded grove. We have, perhaps, walked here, or somewhere like here, before. Rachel's, Opiate, the Books, and Four Tet have taken us to places like this, but Talkdemonic has brought it all together for us.

The remainder of the disc is not very different from anything offered on the first two tracks. This, however, doesn't at all detract from the album's quality. It's a wonderfully consistent listen and never dull, with many fine moments to explore. Although not a startlingly original record, Talkdemonic's Beat Romantic is in very good and fairly exclusive company, wherein elements of classical composition fuse with IDM, jazz beats, and thoughtfully placed organic filigree, making for a very lovely and engaging album of hypnotic melancholy and meditative bliss.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.