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Timber Timbre - Creep on Creepin’ On

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Artist: Timber Timbre

Album: Creep on Creepin’ On

Label: Arts & Crafts

Review date: Apr. 20, 2011


Timber Timbre - "Black Water" (Creep On Creepin' On)


The Canadians in Timber Timbre have found the ghost story in Americana styles like folk, blues, jazz and doo-wop. A sense of dread hangs over the steady, staccato plink of piano, the ominous thud of kick drum in “Bad Ritual.” The 12/8 swagger of R&B turns gothic in “Lonesome Hunter.” These songs’ outlines are familiar, even traditionally rooted, yet like visiting spirits, they turn translucent, warped and faintly disturbing.

It starts, perhaps, with the vocals. Timber Timbre’s Taylor Kirk sounds like M. Ward singing from a graveyard. That is, he has the same soft-edged tenor as the She & Him singer, one that brushes against, rather than attacking, the notes. Yet where M. Ward makes a folky murmur into something warm and welcoming, Kirk’s voice is feverish, hollow, fluorescent with decay.

Vocals aside, Kirk and his band mates, Mika Posen and Simon Trottier, warp traditional sounds into strange spiritually-charged miasmas. In the disc’s title track, Posen’s violin and Trottier’s lapsteel start in genuine sweetness, then curdle at the edges into eerie chill. Mathieu Charbonneau, guesting on piano, reduces 128 keys to a form of ghostly percussion, playing one note or one chord repeatedly, over the entire duration of songs. And Colin Stetson, making occasional forays on saxophone, sounds distant, removed, like the memory of a jazz solo, rather than a guy standing in the room with you.

Kirk’s lyrics are likewise unsettling, alluding to long-haired poltergeists, levitating chairs and sudden coils of ectoplasm. And when there are no vocals, things turn even spookier. “Obelisk,” one of several abstract instrumentals, seizes up with sudden string surges, stops short with giant piano clangs, scatters the broken glass sound of high keyboard notes over its cavernous silences.

Timber Timbre’s backwoods mysticism can be a touch over-solemn, and there’s a palpable relief in the more propulsive, sardonic tracks – “Too Old to Die Young” and “Lonesome Hunter” – that punch up the second half of the album. Still, the way this band turns well-used Americana sounds into something frightening is impressive. It’s like hearing a loved one’s voice when you know that you’re alone, scarier in its way than any unfamiliar sound.

By Jennifer Kelly

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