In a June interview with his local weekly, the Willamette Week, Talkdemonic’s Kevin O’Connor revealed, “I wrote two albums worth of songs in between Eyes at Half Mast and this one that I threw out because I thought they sounded too much like our last two albums.” Thankfully, he didn’t send his band to purgatory like another Kevin [Shields] did with My Bloody Valentine, but sometimes overthinking is overthinking.
Give him credit. On Ruins, the Portland duo’s fourth album and first for Isaac Brock’s Glacial Pace label (the Modest Mouse frontman also helped mix the album), there is nary a banjo strummed. Furthermore, when O’Connor and violist Lisa Molinaro are inspired, it shows, as on “Midcentury Man” and “City Sleep”. But sometimes it is easy to lose the instrumental Ruins in its meandering noise experiments and inoffensive hip-hop shuffling.
Where Ruins keeps the listener’s attention is, well, where it attempts to. On opener “Slumber Verses”, Molinaro screeches in contrast with a mellow, down-tempo drum loop. On “Revival”, the lone strummer, Molinaro’s viola drones over galloping live drums and sparsely applied synth bleeps. “City Sleep” is the only track exceeding five minutes, but it’s here that Talkdemonic makes the best use of its time, with a slow build into a brisk drum chatter.
“City Sleep” actually feels shorter than any of the four quickies that follow it, with only “Violet” amounting to anything other than filler. “Cascading”, full of arpeggios and a bizarre five seconds of humanoid keyboard no-no-noes, comes close but is too short for its own good. By the time the album gets going again, it has lost its momentum.
Still, Ruins succeeds a little more often than it fails, and one should look no further for a new playlist to accompany a late study session or classy dinner with some hip friends.
Essential Tracks: “City Sleep”, “Midcentury Man”, and “Revival”