Various Seasides, the latest album from Talkdemonic (basically Kevin O’Connor playing everything), is like that friend with all the weird interests and the postmodern tomes on the bookshelf but is also exceedingly kind and approachable. O’Connor’s music has an innate strangeness, but it’s also lovely, irresistible, and welcoming.
There are plenty of sonic comparisons to other artists here – Air and Explosions in the Sky come to mind – but it’s also very much its own sound. O’Connor, who also composes film scores, formed Talkdemonic in 2003 and released four albums over the next several years (Mutiny Sunshine, Beat Romantic, Eyes at Half Mast, and Ruins), all with the assistance of other musicians. But Various Seasides is a true solo effort, with O’Connor playing everything himself. The instrumentation is heavily synthesized but fiercely lo-fi. “Barely Dawn” opens the album with gauzy analog synths and simple beats, creating an atmosphere that manages to evoke the 1980s without all the garish neon.
The songs on Various Seasides have relatively little variety – plenty of retro keyboard sounds, warm bass, and loping drum beats – but that consistency works well in this environment. There’s a beautiful, almost calming simplicity to the music, even when the keyboards swell to a roar, such as at the end of “Playland”, or when the lack of drums or bass on “Film Wave” and “Abandoned City” gives those songs a particularly dreamy, almost hallucinogenic haze. The heavy dependence on acoustic guitar in “Catskill: Autumn Blaze” allows the track to display a pronounced folk feel.
Elsewhere, on “Song for Meagen”, O’Connor pines for the era of new wave pop, as the synths take on a more artificial, charmingly dated feel, and the drums are even mildly danceable. On the title track, O’Connor closes Various Seasides with an almost hymn-like synth track, with the heavily sustained keyboards seeming to mimic an interstellar chorus. It’s playful, relaxing, welcoming, and oddly melodic. O’Connor is almost gently lulling us to sleep as the album reaches its conclusion.
Referring to Various Seasides as a peaceful, ambient journey may be deceiving, as this is certainly an album that benefits from concentrated, deep listening. But it also makes for a lovely sonic companion on nighttime drives and might be some of the most gorgeous background music you can throw on your turntable when you just want to spend the day at home. Talkdemonic’s beguiling concoctions have that kind of timeless, evergreen appeal.