Tripping the beat romantic

Of the bands to arise out of Portland’s increasingly vibrant music scene in the past year, Talkdemonic could seem to an outsider like an unlikely success story. No vocals. No guitar. Yet, fresh from a month-long West Coast tour that included a buzz-generating stint at SXSW, the band played to a sold-out crowd last Saturday to celebrate the release of their much anticipated sophomore release, Beat Romantic.

Holocene, overflowing with both music fans and fellow musicians, seemed like an apt venue for a band who have not only been local media darlings – they were chosen by Willamette Week as Portland’s best new band last year – but have also been relentless advocates for Portland’s flourishing music scene.

After sets by fellow homegrown indie-rockers Horsefeathers and Wet Confetti, Talkdemonic took over the stage, transforming Holocene’s cavernous warehouse into a synthetic forest of plastic and projected trees and the buzz of Portland’s nocturnal scenesters standing elbow-to-elbow in anticipation.

The show was everything that Talkdemonic have built their reputation on: serenely beautiful, overwhelming and unlike anything else Stumptown has to offer, with orchestrations that ebbed and flowed between gentle string arrangements and pulsing drum fills.

But perhaps the band’s greatest success is that, as always, they were able to put on such a dynamic, organic show despite the fact that much of their set is canned – there are only two of them after all. At a time when many basement musicians are struggling to find a way to bring their personal projects to a public audience, Talkdemonic – with their unpredictable energy and visceral synergy – has broken the code for making electronically constructed music engaging to the jaded Portland crowd.

Much has been made of how genre-defying Talkdemonic manage to be, and indeed they have carved an entirely new place for themselves in the landscape of experimental indie music. Drawing on elements of folk, classical, hip-hop and experimental electronic music, Talkdemonic’s music is eerily familiar, yet utterly unique.

Like its predecessor, 2004’s much lauded Mutiny Sunshine, Beat Romantic was created largely in the bits and bytes of drummer Kevin O’Connor’s laptop. Loops and drum sequences are ever present, but ultimately Talkdemonic is not electronic music. Every sound – both on their albums and live – feels organic, bending and bleeding as naturally as any live instrument.

Lisa Molinaro’s ethereal viola soars – sometimes effortlessly, sometimes aggressively – over the backbone of O’Connor’s hip-hop infused drums while playful banjos, droning accordions, or the slow pulse of Rhodes pianos serve both as subtle fills and melodic touch points.

After taking the winter off, Talkdemonic seems ready to spread the word, they are slotted to open for both Quasi and the Walkmen later this year and Beat Romantic has already garnered national attention, including glowing reviews on and in CMJ Magazine.