Release Date: Apr 7, 2017
Record label: City Slang
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
Life is strange right now. Donald Trump is president, David Bowie isn't alive and Timber Timbre released a synth album. Even in 2017, there are still some bands it's hard to picture ever using electronic instruments. Near the top of that list was this Canadian campfire quartet. At least until the ….
Timber Timbre seem to be slowly moving through various decades of music with each album. The Toronto band's 2009 self-titled record felt like a ghost of the 1950s, 2011's Creep On Creepin' On delved into spooky 60s blues, and 2014's Hot Dreams saw them subtly transition toward 70s R&B influences. Despite that varied trajectory, few would have predicted that Taylor Kirk's experimental folk project would eventually mine early-80s synth pop and funk for inspiration.
Montreal, Canada quartet Timber Timbre have quietly been perfecting their craft for over a decade now. The Quebecois band have always been notoriously difficult to pin down, often categorised as 'something between blues and folk', but they have always been startlingly original and perhaps more importantly, cinematic. This has been displayed from their soundtrack work over the years, featuring on Breaking Bad and The Good Wife, plus having a couple Polaris Prize nominations to boot, but they've never quite cracked it outside of their native Canada.
On their five previous albums, Taylor Kirk's Canadian trio slipped sharp edges under the cover of noir-ish mood-pop seductions. For their latest, that tension between surface and subtext gains fresh purpose. Between its ripe metaphors - slime oozing from sewers and the like - and tonal lurches, Sincerely, Future Pollution thickens Kirk's romantic despair with deep-seated national anxieties.
If 2017 proved anything, it's that there are endless ways of making protest music. On Sincerely, Future Pollution, Timber Timbre take a poetic approach to expressing political discontent; though they've couched their messages in vintage sounds before, they've never done it quite so pointedly. After reinterpreting '50s doo wop on their self-titled debut, '60s folk on Creep on Creepin' On and '70s funk and country on Hot Dreams, for their fourth album the dial on Timber Timbre's time machine lands on the '80s, and the band excels at subverting the decade's excess and artificiality.
We are familiar with the nostalgic bulbousness of Timber Timbre, the weeping willows' long tentacles waving high above our heads creating a stage for front porch cracklers crafted from the wafts of simpler times. But these are not simpler times, and the confusion of our day warrants complicating noises. Sincerely, Future Pollution is as disconcerting as it is dire— from the textured head fog of "Velvet Gloves & Spit" to the dooming glittery magic of "Moment" to the shook-down sultriness of "Floating Cathedral." Its slithering rattle is hard to shake.
It's not a total shock to find Timber Timbre's Taylor Kirk writing a dystopian record. It's a bit surprising that it sounds like he's having fun doing it, but then again, only someone with a black sense of humour could look around right now and think, "This would all be better with some '80s drum machines. " Kirk built a mystery around himself from the get-go with his menacing baritone voice, creaky folk songs and reputation for introspective/anti-social live performance.
Much of Timber Timbre's early gothic folk was shaped by imagery of supernatural malice, with Taylor Kirk's gentle, unnerving croon invoking demon hosts, levitation, and poltergeists. More recently, the sinister lyrics have been inspired by the natural world, with swamps and canyons alike pulling down and consuming Kirk's narrators, many of whom brimmed with a frightening internal darkness. On the Canadian band's fourth album, Sincerely, Future Pollution, Kirk's songwriting turns from paranormal or natural danger to a wholly manmade pestilence, moving from more rural settings to a backdrop of a seamy cityscape as Timber Timbre steps out of the swamp and into the sewer.
Is it a love letter to the good that remains, or hate mail from the bad days yet to come? Sincerely, Future Pollution buds with the gluey romance of "Velvet Gloves and Spit" ("I was a stranger too familiar and not enough / But I once saw / The touch of your velvet hand upon my face / I recall / Velvet gloves and spit and your embrace"), but the song's mournful glow suggests an affair that was doomed from the start. This time around singer/multi-instrumentalist Taylor Kirk ceded more creative room to guitarist Simon Trottier and keyboardist Mathieu Charbonneau, and the dynamic shift can be heard early on in tracks like "Grifting" and the instrumental "Skin Tone", which strut and spread out with hypnagogic synthesizer runs. Sincerely, Future Pollution wades through a humid swamp of sensory memory.
'Sewer Blues', 'Western Questions', 'Sincerely, Future Pollution'. Just looking at some of the track titles on Timber Timbre's fourth record, it's easy to come to the conclusion that this is a grubbier, dirtier, more overtly socially-conscious album than their Polaris Prize-nominated album 'Hot Dreams'. Even Taylor Kirk himself admits that "2016 was a difficult time to observe", and those feelings of unease have spilled over into the band's music.
When it comes to storytelling, not many do it better than Timber Timbre front man Taylor Kirk. Kirk is a champion of the deranged campfire horror story. He's the guy with a flashlight illuminating his face, animating the night with images of unsettlingly grim realities. With every fearful glance cast his way, and every twig snapped in the shadows, he grows in conviction, intoxicated by a bizarre schadenfreude that quickly propels half-baked spooky story gag into full-fledged nightmare.