Of all the weird, mashed-up musical subgenres in the world today, the wackiest pseudo-mainstream concept of all might just be folktronica. After all, its primary elements—acoustic folk and downtempo electronics—are as different as tree and machine (literally), and a marriage between the two would seemingly blot out the best stand-alone qualities of each.
Except on the rare occasion when it works. Four Tet’s 2003 album Rounds, for example, managed to balance old-world earthiness with new-age computerization in a way that felt neither jarring nor strange for strange’s sake. In the same vein, Eyes at Half Mast, the third disc from Portland duo Talkdemonic, blends the organic flavor of Lisa Molinaro’s guitars, banjos and strings with Kevin O’Connor’s beat-infused laptop confections to triumphant effect.
The majority of Eyes’ 14 tracks (“Shattered Into Dyes,” “Tides in Their Grave” and “Shallow Doldrums,” to name just a few) ascend gradually in power and grace, in the tradition of post-rock greats Sigur Rós and Mogwai. At worst, the album feels a bit background-y, with songs such as “Civilian,” “Dust and Heat” and “A Hundred Faces in the Neon Forest” gliding by not unlike semi-ambient Boards of Canada outtakes.
In a few instances, however—take “Ending the Orange Glow,” for one—Talkdemonic seamlessly unifies rootsy, old-timey instrumentation with pulsating, modernistic rhythms and creates something entirely fresh in the process. Folktronica, apparently.