In Portland, Oregon, Kevin O'Connor began his pursuit in 2004 for new frontiers in percussion and analog sounds. What was he looking for? Something entirely new in something old. And so he began collecting. Dusty Italian Crumar synths and pristine Moogs, rickety Baldwins and warbly Wurlitzers, pure-sounding Rhodes and cranky old Korgs. Sounds upon floating, gritty and gorgeous sounds, with a muscular backbone of beats alongside a brainy live drumkit. Talkdemonic was born. While Kevin was beating out a new path in the already innovative music community of Portland, his friend and violist Lisa Molinaro joined him shortly thereafter to lend her string skills to further texturize Talkdemonic's alluring sounds. The duo became unstoppable.
Fast forward seven years. Talkdemonic's 2004 Mutiny Sunshine is now considering a downtempo classic amongst fans, while their sophomore Beat Romantic thrust them into indie spotlight. In 2008, Kevin and Lisa released Eyes At Half Mast, a union of haunting strings passages, toungue and groove beats and drums, and lush nostalgic synth layers that call to mind your personal soundtrack to some inner, secret and special moment of your life.
Ruins is the fourth Talkdemonic studio album, and it effectively takes everything about the first three Talkdemonic records and blasts it into the stratosphere. It's as though you've watched this band mature throughout the arc of their discography, with Ruins being the sophisticated culmination of a near-decade spent honing their craft. This newfound sense of maturity however, never translates to apathy. It's more like a refined, renewed sense of space and crescendo. Achieving this sort of balance is no small feat for a largely self-recorded instrumental band. It would be difficult not to fill the vocalist void with melodic clutter, but Ruins never seems overstuffed. It ebbs and flows with the touch of an ace producer.
The song "City Sleep" pulses along for nearly five minutes with Lisa's drones and string swells before Kevin's trusty drum kit comes in like a stampede. It's all patiently revealed, but never monotonous. It's an encapsulating album centerpiece.
Lisa's viola has always been achingly pretty, but never before has it sounded so much like a childhood lullaby and a violent assault, sometimes simultaneously. Armed with a new arsenal of processing pedals at her feet, she's pushing herself and the melodic shape of these songs in wildly exciting new directions. The strings sound alternately improvised and painstakingly constructed.
Not only do Lisa's textures make Ruins the most cohesive and exploratory Talkdemonic album yet, they provide Kevin with quite a canvas on which to splatter his synthesizers and drums. Kevin demonstrates an uncanny ability to expertly play every instrument without sounding like he knows how to expertly play every instrument. The song "Revival" showcases everything beautifully effective about Ruins. Kevin's acoustic guitar strums itself around his rolling drum beat and bass. Then suddenly Lisa's growling, panning, bending viola and (or is that a trombone? a blender? a motorcycle?) adds to the tension until the whole thing just explodes into light halfway through. It's the kind of euphoric aural moment you wouldn't mind dying to. These kinds of moments fill this record. From the eerie almost-human voices peeking through the cracks in "Cascading" to the tender soundscapes of col legno viola and deep toms in "Chimera", to the screeching death-stomp of "Midnight Pass", the tension/texture/release/euphoria ritual remains intact without ever sounding formulaic.
The beauty of Talkdemonic is that they can cradle you while wandering through the daring and beautiful Ruins, or they can just set you free.