With melodies that run rich like hymnals and imagery ripe with temptation and dread, the self-titled album from Canadian folk-rock group Timber Timbre lingers long after the music has stopped. As one of 2009's most promising artists and Polaris Prize Longlist recipient, Timber Timbre
is a macabre patchwork of Gothic and gospel influence. On this, the band's third release, front man Taylor Kirk has fine tuned a sound that is both strange and familiar, drawing from a range of distinctly American genres. Bathed in psalm-like intonations, violins and organs bleed across every haunting track. Not unlike Tom Waits or Nick Cave, Kirk's writing style is often deadly and dark, relating themes of love to decomposition, mysticism, and violence: "You dug me out of this shallow grave with your Swiss army knife, only you could revive me, so badly decomposed. Through Kirk's vocal stylings however, we learn that his is a tempered angst. Though his voice is deep and rich, it often drops in and out. His is not a brassy riff, but more an exquisite sob along the lines of Jeff Buckley. Still, we are sustained by the inherent lusty quality of the music. Timber Timbre crafts a backwoods experience that is unchaste, and alluring.
We are introduced to Timber Timbre with "Demon Host," in which Taylor Kirk's delicate strumming and soft voice bring to mind a bluesy Simon & Garfunkel. Kirk recalls childhood poems and parables, with lines like "Here is the church, and here is the steeple. Look inside, see all the people." This steady rhythm and nursery-like rhyme schema stir the listener's emotional memory. But Kirk provokes his audience; he subverts the song's superficial calm with a fiery, lyrical assault. Notions of innocence and fidelity yield murderous heartache. Spirituality gives way to mortal despair and compulsion. There is regret and a touching sadness in each of these brutal visions. "I have become what I most fear. And I know there's no such thing as ghosts but I have seen the demon host." As the piece ends, Kirk's voice fades, as he and the listener are uplifted in a wave of choral echoes.
As the album develops, Timber Timbre dives further still into a curious abyss, in which Kirk covets danger with reckless abandon. "Until the Night is Over" is an ominous dance recounting the story of an ill met lover with cinematic precision. Grating feedback establishes an icy, ancient tone. This leads into the beguiling chimes of a harpsichord, an instrumental choice underscoring much of the album. Here, Kirk makes overt reference to "The House of the Rising Sun." The listener is positioned in murky realm where fires overtake a interminable night sky, thieves run rampant and insects serve as reminders of looming death.
Kirk uses repetition as means of keeping us from getting scared off, returning to these solitary visions and symbols again and again. It is this, and his attention to lyrical detail that makes him such a brilliant storyteller. For all its poetic scar tissue, Timber Timbre
throbs with narrative excellence worthy of any listener. - Megan Diamondstein
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MP3: Timber Timbre - "Demon Host" (Timber Timbre)
Timber Timbre on Myspace