Release Date: Apr 1, 2014
Record label: Arts & Crafts
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Folk
Timber Timbre are Canadian, though their music evokes Ansel Adams' American landscapes. Saxophones are smokin' and guitars twang, making Hot Dreams sound like the soundtrack to a western directed by David Lynch. Singer Taylor Kirk's voice is distorted, as if recorded on an ancient microphone, with full-on, Elvis-style slapback. His lyrics have bite: "You turned me on, then you turned on me," he croons on This Low Commotion.
Their last record, 2010's Creep On Creepin' On earned Timber Timbre critical gushings, a Polaris Prize shortlist nod and growth in their international audience. Chances are that will all be repeated with this stunningly accomplished new album, their fifth. Timber Timbre are often misleadingly still termed a folk band, but it'd be more accurate to describe them in cinematic terms.There's a widescreen Morricone-like quality to the sound, while a spooky sense of dread sometimes infers David Lynch.
Having been stowed away in little cupboards since the release of their JUNO and Polaris-nommed fourth LP Creep On Creepin’ On, Canada’s foremost folk-blues ringmasters Timber Timbre have been achin’ to hit the road once more. Okay, so no-one’s actually kept them under lock and key, but they have been gone for nigh-on three years, touring with Laura Marling and Feist, as well as undertaking myriad other projects. For their fifth full-length, entitled Hot Dreams, they’ve hijacked a time machine and sprawled themselves out over the middle of the 20th century.
Success can be bred out of failure, something that the Toronto, Canada, band Timber Timbre knows all too well. In 2013, founder and leader Taylor Kirk was tapped to score music for the horror film The Last Exorcism Part II. While a Timber Timbre song plays over the credits sequence, due to a host of unfortunate circumstances, the score Kirk wrote was rejected.
Creep On Creepin' On, the punning title to Timber Timbre's 2011 album, had it just about right. This Canadian trio dispense a slow, seductive blend of blues and country that skulks in the shadows, whispering sweet nothings before baring its fangs. Singer Taylor Kirk's lyrics supply much of the menacing pleasure, "You turned me on, then you turned on me" he sings on This Low Commotion, an evocation of love as simmering hostility.
Few artists could manage a trajectory as fine-tuned as Timber Timbre: in developing a distinct identity for his swamp-folk project over five releases in eight years, Taylor Kirk has ensured each album feels more substantial than the last. Previously, Timber Timbre’s creepy qualities conjured B-movie references, but ‘Hot Dreams’ feels distinctly film noir. Though there are less standout moments than on previous records, it is a wonderfully cohesive whole that renders brooding menace into graceful songcraft (as with the softly sung, “Run from me, darlin’/You better run for your life”, on ‘Run From Me’).
Hot Dreams arrived almost exactly three years after the release of Timber Timbre's breakthrough Creep on Creepin' On, a set whose high-drama darkness predicted the Lynchian feel that seeped into a lot of indie music released after it (including David Lynch's own albums). Grander and more ambitious, the band's fifth album may also be even more surreal than its predecessor. It's certainly one of the most singular-sounding albums issued in 2014.
Over his last few albums, Timber Timbre's Taylor Kirk has become increasingly comfortable with the grim and spooky mood that imbues his eerie crooning. On his last album, Creep On Creepin' On, he made that darkness explicit and almost cartoonish, but on Hot Dreams he's wisely pulled back from that horror film soundtrack vibe to let the songs breathe. There are less scary noises, though the mood is still very dark this time around.
When it gets to Timber Timbre's music, 'cinematic' is the word you are looking for. Hot Dreams arrives after four captivating (and relatively unappreciated) records, which saw the band transition from a predominantly folk mysticism to a concoction of folk, blues, Fifties Americana and not one, but many 'cinematic' atmospheres. No one would ever doubt that Timber Timbre are experts in making their albums sound like scores.
Timber Timbre’s last outing, the excellent Keep On Creepin’ On, was met with almost universal indifference outside of their native Canada, where they received a number of richly deserved award nominations. Musically innovative and richly textured, their bleak but compelling orchestral folk noir boasted a wide array of influences, ranging from fellow Canuck noise merchants Godspeed You! Black Emperor to vintage solo John Lennon and even hip-hop. Three years on, multi-instrumentalist Taylor Kirk has opted to hand over greater creative responsibility to long-time collaborator Simon Trottier, who steps forward to join Kirk as co-composer & producer on Hot Dreams.
Timber Timbre’s Taylor Kirk has a haunting voice. Not “hauntingly beautiful,” as the cliché goes — more that his velvety, Elvis and Johnny Cash-channeling croon can actually be scary. Turning on a dime from soothing to menacing, Kirk’s sturdy baritone is the group’s most prominent but ambiguous instrument. His delivery alluringly clouds his meaning, with each listen revealing new layers within songs.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. I can't think of too many bands with as few points of valid comparison as Timber Timbre. They make music in a disarmingly cinematic style; you wonder whether Quentin Tarantino has ever heard their records, because all of them sound as if they could comfortably serve as the soundtrack to some unwritten film of his.
Canadians Timber Timbre return to tell another sobering and unnerving tale, Taylor Kirk’s brooding croon serving as a glimmering torch through the moody and unsettling atmosphere, a forest of haunting memories and forgotten terrors. Opening proceedings is the comfortingly familiar ‘Beat The Drum Slowly’, a sorrowful tale of a “celebrity century” at a marching pace that gently descends from a lullaby tone into a stuttering electronic seizure. It’s as if Dean Martin and Radiohead have spent winter together in a bunker and emerged thoroughly depressed, with writing this song as all that kept them going.
Timber Timbre is the dissolute house band at that end-of-the-trail, abandon-all-hope lounge, seducing and disorienting listeners by lulling them musically into chimerical comfort. The relaxed tempos and spacious arrangements of the Canadian band’s latest create deceptively calm backdrops, from haunting noir balladry to spaghetti western cinemascope. But once the listener buys in, singer Taylor Kirk enjoins them to reveal their darkest selves, to see motives and ethics for the fig leaves they are.
There’s no doubt that the Canadian folk music project Timber Timbre boasts an entirely unique sound, emitting a melancholy reminiscent of the National but with a spooky, retro twist. The band’s newest album, Hot Dreams, is an ambitious project that propels listeners into what seems like a cinematic, black-and-white horror film experience, with Taylor Kirk’s eerie and placid vocals guiding us through it. The album is as much seductive as it is creepy, with hollow and haunting sonic gestures that together compose an alternate universe ambience.The album begins with the dreamy and unearthly tune, Beat The Drum Slowly, featuring an acoustic guitar hum and xylophone-like droplets of sound.