Talkdemonic | Beat Romantic (Arena Rock Recording Co.)

The 16 tracks are all fairly short, but each brims with enough musical detail to keep you engaged.

Instrumental indie rock can provide the perfect background music for small social gatherings. I’ve found that when you have just a few close friends over for a casual meal, or maybe wine and appetizers, you don’t want distracting music playing in the background; you just want something that’s cool and interesting enough to complement the mood. Bands like Tristeza, Tuatara, Japancakes, and many others fit the bill, and so does Talkdemonic, the Portland duo responsible for the charming sounds on Beat Romantic, their second disc.

Kevin O’Connor is the wizard behind this multi-instrumental soufflé, and he’s responsible for everything here except viola and some of the synth work by partner Lisa Molinaro. The 16 tracks are all fairly short, but each brims with enough musical detail to keep you engaged. O’Connor likes to feature several instruments in each track; “Cascade Locks” offers effectively minimal keyboards, banjo, shaker, and Molinaro’s winsome viola playing. Molinaro, in fact, plays with textural grace throughout—“Bering,” “Mountaintops in Caves” (a particularly soothing little piece which is mostly guitar and viola), and “Verite” are among the tunes where her playing is integral to the subtly beguiling effect of the music. “Human Till Born” is a showcase for O’Connor’s near-tribal percussion, joined by a bit of emberglow synth, and “Sept with Smith” is a lilting composition where O’Connor shows the kind of taste and restraint on guitar (with a satisfying change or two) that always increases the mood-enhancing effect of music like this, rather than getting showy or distracting with empty virtuosity.

Though billed in the press release as “a collection of style-bending, folktronic hop songs,” this is really just modern mood music at heart. No track lasts long enough to induce over-analysis, yet they all flow nicely, with some segueing directly into each other with no break. This kind of thing isn’t really that easy to do, either; O’Connor and Molinaro deserve kudos for finding the core musicality of each track, and making sure whatever instruments they add, whether a banjo, accordion, or Wurlitzer, don’t veer too far from that core.

Modest and charming, yet still filled with ear-caressing moments, Beat Romantic is a well-named recording that illustrates why the term “post-rock” is hopelessly inadequate as a catch-all banner for instrumental rock. I’m really not sure what to call this stuff, but I know where it’ll be filed in my head: in the bin marked “Engaging, classy, instrumental mood music, perfect as accompaniment to inspired discussions and drinking high-quality spirits.” In fact, there’s a high quality to the spirit with which Talkdemonic create and perform this rather effervescent brand of instrumental pop. With a little tronica added…


RIYL: Tristeza, Dirty Three, Japancakes

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