ARCHIVED PRESSXLR8R FEATURE:
Oregon’s rock-scattered Pacific coast is a grand, wordless expanse of aching beauty, which happens to be a good way to describe Eyes at Half Mast, the latest from Portland duo Talkdemonic. Lisa Molinaro and Kevin O’Connor craft a sort of instrumental pop from the unlikely pairing of viola and drums, making music that fits easily into the cinematic Northwest landscape but eludes comparison and classification.
XLR8R Eyes at Half Mast Review 8/10:
Talkdemonic may be one of Portland's best-kept secrets. The local-favorite duo of Kevin O'Connor and Lisa Molinaro uses its unlikely pairing–drums and viola–to craft tight yet reverberating tracks of pastoral melancholy. Molinaro, who recently moonlighted in The Decemberists, lends a dramatic, almost visual touch with her strings. The instrumental tracks on Eyes at Half Mast certainly recall the cinematic beauty of the Pacific Northwest, but that isn't to say they're calm or quiet. In fact, O'Connor beats the shit out of his drums on some of these tracks, drawing urgency from his lush, multi-instrumentalist arrangements. Sorry Portland, don't expect this to stay your secret much longer.
"Getting a bit more organic is Beat Romantic (Arena Rock Recording Co.), an instrumental masterpiece by fellow Pacific Northwest drum and viola duo Talkdemonic. Making ample use of samples to weave between their beats and strings, the group members create a laid-back, neo-psychedelic sound akin to Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor." -David C. Obenour, DIW
SIGNAL TO NOISE REVIEW:
"Folktronic Hop is the genre - "indie rock rooted in instrumental hip-hop." The description is enough to pique my interest, but Talkdemonic, the Portland, OR, duo who've pioneered the style, defy even the definition of their own devising. Together, bandmates Kevin O'Connor and Lisa Molinaro play a wide variety of instruments too numerous to list, and this musical versatility shines through all their work. Beat Romantic is a beautiful, complex and compelling collection of instrumental compositions that sounds amazingly organic in spite of the heavy production that went into its creation. Honestly, I'm not really feeling the hip-hop side of things in terms of the band's sound - for the uninitiated, the "Hop" should be taken more as an inspiration than as an influence. Comparison is difficult. Molinaro's gorgeous, sweeping string (mainly viola) arrangements are at times reminiscent of Rachel's, while O'Connor's innovative rhythms, electronic experimentation and driving melodies are occasionally Tortoise-ish, and the combination is breathtaking. This music is incredibly dense, yet flows with the ease and exuberance of spring thaw into a mountain stream. Before you know it, the stream becomes an overflowing river and all of the detritus that's built up in your head and your heart over the long winter months is washed away in tapered waves of musical catharsis - at least that's how it feels until the record comes to an end. Afterwards you will have no choice but to go back and relive the experience." -Sean Molnar, Signal to Noise
TINY MIX TAPES, Beat Romantic review 4.5/5:
their album prior, Mutiny Sunshine, we were introduced to a largely one-man
affair. Kevin O'Connor supplied the bulk of the instrumentation, beats,
samples, and writing of the music. This was his shit extended and expressed
in aural fashion. While other artists appeared on some of the tracks,
it was still O'Connor's album. Keeping these beginnings in mind and recognizing
the inclusion of Lisa Molinaro into the fray, we are introduced to an
album with inspired roots and dirty boots.
PASTE MAGAZINE REVIEW:
"'Post-rock with strings' usually brings to mind a large, hirsute collective given to brooding drama and instrumental bombast. But Talkdemonic brings an intimate chamber-music feel to the sound. The duo combines guitar, banjo and viola atop a bed of subtle electronic and acoustic beats; their tracks tend toward short sketches, averaging just over two minutes and some run together suggesting a longer composition. Completely avoiding their antecedents' noodle-y excesses, Beat Romantic is an album of carefully arranged pop songs that happen to have a viola singing lead. -Mark Richardson, Paste
URB MAGAZINE REVIEW:
"Talkdemonic doesn't speak in tongues; in fact the instrumental duo doesn't speak at all. And yet these wistful vignettes of viola + Powerbook + percussion speak volumes. It's like the collected folklore of when the Dirty Three, the Notwist and M83 huddled under an umbrella, linking samplers." -Tony Ware, Urb
"Kevin O'Connor and Lisa Molinaro, the duo behind instrumental outfit Talkdemonic, call their music "folktronic hop," a description as cute as it is accurate. Still, it doesn't give away all the secrets behind their complex layered sound. Talkdemonic began as a solo project for the Portland, Oregon based O'Connor, who released the overlooked and undr the radar Mutiny Sunshine in 2004. Beat Romantic is a remarkable step forward in many respects- highlighted by the permanent addition of Molinaro on viola and synth- which builds on an already sonically drenched palette of guitar, drums, keyboards and electronics. The album is certainly folk-based, in many respects: acoustic guitar can be heard weaving throughout "Mountaintops in Caves" and "Sept with Smith," while banjo adorns the jaunty "Dusty Fluorescent/Wooden Shelves." Arguably the most compelling elements of Talkdemonic lie with O'Connor's precise and forceful work on the drum kit and Molinaro on the viola- which seems to sweep each song along, connecting the dots between each electronic and organic element. With post-rock currently at a new fever pitch, it would appear challenging for a band like Talkdemonic to break through the clutter, but with Beat Romantic, they have done just that, breathing some much needed linfe into the often undistinguishable world of instrumental rock." -Andy Hurst, Skyscraper
TALKDEMONIC Beat Romantic PITCHFORK REVIEW 7.8
the cover of Beat Romantic, the sophomore release from Portland, Ore.'s
Talkdemonic, we see a path strewn with branches and grasses winding toward
the horizon through a thick stand of birches. It's a gorgeously idyllic
scene: the trees' slender white trunks, the canopy of green. But there's
something decidedly unnatural about the image. The hall-of-mirrors symmetry
smacks of digital manipulation, of a version of nature enhanced by technology.
"For a band whose name implies
a certain sinister quality, Talkdemonic, the Portland instrumental duo
of drummer/programmer Kevin O'Connor and viola player/keyboardist Lisa
Molinaro, couldn't be any less intimidating.
Beat Romantic CMJ MAGAZINE REVIEW:
Talkdemonic makes cinematic instrumentals that sound both modern and organic,
combining sampled beats and synths with live strings. It's hard to believe,
but these elegant songs are made by just two musicians (and an occasional
guest Flautist) : drummer/multi-instrumentalist Kevin O'Connor and violist
Lisa Molinaro. Don't be put off by the lack of lyrics, Beat Romantic
is still a pop album. Any one of these songs would be perfect for
Ben Gibbard to sing over or for some backpacker MC to rap on, but Molinaro's
sweeping viola lines render vocals superfluous. Melodies abound on folksy
banjos, arty keyboards or haunting strings, but it's often O'Connor's
drumming that is the star. Layered among computerized loops, his live
percussion--so often just played by a laptop in these sorts of bands--is
rich and dynamic, bringing harmony and texture to sounds too often relegated
to simply keeping time."
THE STRANGER (Seattle):
"Mesmerizing—that's probably the easiest way to describe Talkdemonic, although plenty of other words have been utilized in an attempt to communicate what this Portland duo create with just a laptop, drums, and viola. Who needs words, though? This vocal-free combo crafts music that's intense, emotional, and utterly engaging—they are infinitely better experienced firsthand than read about. See for yourself why they've become one of the most talked-about groups in Portland's up-and-coming music scene." -Barbara Mitchell, The Stranger
SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN:
"On this Portland, Ore., duo's sophomore album, Beat Romantic (Arena Rock), Kevin O'Connor's precise hip-hop beats contrast with and complement Lisa Molinaro's strong and undulating viola harmonies. The resulting songs traverse a diverse musical landscape, with bits of Deerhoof-like experimentalism added in the form of Molinaro's occasional glissando harmonics and scratchy textures."
SF WEEKLY BLURB:
"There's music that heaves, and
then there's music that sighs. Portland's Talkdemonic performs the latter
variety. Its quiet releases, however, are not to be confused with the
defeated or passive-aggressive variety; rather, Talkdemonic's delicate
expulsions are like breathing exercises. An instrumental duo of Lisa Molinaro
and Kevin O"Connor, the pair uses viola, percussion, and crisp PowerBook
processing to construct wistful vignettes that could easily soundtrack
a film fable in the Chinese wu xia style. An undercurrent of stoicism
and poise runs throughout Talkdemonic's songs, similar to that found in
such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers.
This is aural calligraphy under the tutelage of Dirty Three, mÚm,
LA WEEKLY BLURB:
"Talkdemonic is the Portland duo
of Kevin O’Connor and Lisa Molinaro, who get a lot of newfangled
mileage out of a genre-defiant melange of electronic-speckled, folkesque,
distantly hip-hop-referential music on their recent Beat Romantic
album, some of which is chillingly beautiful, quirky and imaginatively
PORTLAND MERCURY FEATURE:
"Redemption came, though, when
I started hearing some of these hypemonsters hype up Talkdemonic-- our
Talkdemonic, Portland's Talkdemonic--which is fucking huge and, above
all, a testament to Talkdemonic's live show and the heavyweight strength
of the band's new CD, Beat Romantic.
ATL CREATIVE LOAFING Beat Romantic REVIEW: 4 stars
The goal of instrumental-only acts is pretty straightforward: Don't make audio wallpaper unless you're Eno. The Portland duo Talkdemonic constructs intriguing multidimensional compositions with the brick and mortar of Kevin O'Connor's drum kit and Lisa Molinaro's cello. Beat Romantic, the pair's sophomore effort, is a suite of 16 vignettes, most clocking in around two minutes. They contrast O'Connor's programmed cut-and-paste hip-hop beats (think Four Tet) and polyrhythmic drum assault with soaring melodies, usually courtesy Molinaro's strings. O'Connor also plays Wurlitzer, bass, concertina and synths, and uses the banjo's percussive nature -- along with Molinaro's pizzicato attack -- to add to the rhythmic thrum. Just when your ears demand melody, Beat Romantic usually delivers, especially on the transcendent "Bering," "Mountain Cats" and "Hillside Monarch." There, melodic lines seem to rise organically from the planned chaos of programmed beats and cymbal crashes, resulting in textured arrangements that command your attention. Instrumental mission accomplished. -Jon Schacht
RWS MAGAZINE Beat Romantic REVIEW:
first time I listened to Talkdemonic's Beat Romantic, I was driving to
Boston on a dreary, rainy day with a good friend. I thought the album
captured the mood of the day perfectly with its comforting, melancholy
beats and we both decided it was great rainy day music. The second time
I listened to the album, I was laying on the beach in Florida. The temperature
was in the 80's and there was a soft breeze off the ocean. Beat Romantic
was playing in my headphones and I could hear the ocean waves and birds
in the background and thought that life couldn't get any better. I realized
then that this album is much more than just great atmospheric beats and
harmonies. No matter what the mood, it is truly a divine pleasure to listen
to this gem from Portland duo Talkdemonic.
PRAISE FOR TALKDEMONIC REMIX ON HOLOCENE COMP:
"I'm pretty sure this is what my dreams sound like. Well, I think
my dreams are a little longer because this is way way way too short. I'm
not sure why this version is called Twenty Cent Revolt. Menomena's original
is called Twenty Cell Revolt. Subtle difference. But at any rate, amazing
things are at work here. I mean, this is what happens when two of the
best, most creative drummers in indie rock come together. Danny from Menomena,
reworked by Kevin from TalkDemonic. I'm telling you, it's ridiculous.
I'm not sure how it was done, in the literal terms of remixing, but I'd
like to believe that Kevin laid down a fresh drum track. I think that's
the one we hear in the right channel, quietly blowing our minds."
CMJ HONORABLE MENTION
TOUR SHOW REVIEW:
September 21, 2005
"Talkdemonic have the most scrumptious sound in Portland music today. With Kevin O'Connor's hip-hop aesthetic and Lisa Molinaro's classic viola, the two create a sound that is dynamic and textured, as if you could run your hands along the melodies and feel the undulating forms beneath. They are equal parts gypsy and technology, playing to audiences who watch with rapt attention, swaying close under O'Connor's powerful rhythm and Molinaro's intoxicating strings." -Patrick Coleman, Daily Vanguard, May '05
WILLAMETTE WEEK'S PDX BEST NEW BAND 2005:
TINY MIX TAPES:
"MutinySunshine" honored by
TINY MIX TAPES Best of 2004 LIST:
"O’Connor started Talkdemonic
in January 2003 when he got his hands on a sampler and a sequencer. At
the time, he was most interested in instrumental hip-hop. A trip to Peru
in the summer of 2003 changed both his life and his musical outlook.
"On the album O'Connor's musicianship is apparent, but the mix is so subtle and unobtrusive that at times the drums become just another instrument. In live shows, though O'Connor puts his drumming on display. While the prerecorded tracks pulse from his laptop, O'Connor transforms his drum kit from a metronome into an instrument he can manipulate. Pushing and pulling rhythms, O'Connor leads the listener step by step from a steady hip-hop rhythm to a manic musical pitch filled with cymbal crashes and improvised fills. O'Connor's subtle body language and his taste for both the bombastic and the measured help him emote anger as deftly as joy or sadness--all this without opening his mouth." -Mark Baumgarten, Willamette Week
"Imagine DJ Shadow swearing off turntables and samplers and turning to live instruments. Talkdemonic's Kevin O'Connor doesn't work completely sample free, but he does play live drums over what sounds like proprietary guitar loops and sequencing. I'll be damned if Thom Yorke's vocals wouldn't fit these tracks like a glove." -3Hive.com
"It's nice when a drummer takes the foreground of the stage and even nicer when they take that position in the music itself. This is especially true in the case of Talkdemonic's Kevin O'Connor, whose versatility and precision behind the kit place him amongst the upper ranks of Portland's finest. Projected on the wall behind the violist (Lisa Molinaro), were fascinating scenes of slow-motion waterfalls, city streets and flowing fields shot from car windows, grainy black-and-white imagery and various landscapes that sometimes separated into neatly formed squares and other times merged into indecipherable collages."-Nathan McKee, Daily Vanguard
"Usually, technology affords single-person bands to replace drummers with drum machines. Talkdemonic's Kevin O'Connor, on the other hand, works the inverse, playing live drums over pre-programmed guitars, synth sequencing, strings, erhu samples, IDMmy loops, and the occasional gianormous throb of sub-bass to get the pelvises jittery. It's emotive, rhythmic music that would be just as comfortable on Temporary Residence as it would backing rhymes by some of the somberer emcees, like maybe Awol ONE." -Julianne Shepherd, Portland Mercury
"This unique and catchy sound features very intense strings over an otherwise tight pop song structure."
- Rolling Stone
"When viola player Lisa Molinaro and electrician/drummer Kevin O'Connor lock their sounds together naturally, as on the gorgeous floater "Cascading," they sound beautifully out of time."
"This time around, their forward-looking symphony rings out like
an ageless book of poems."
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