Timber Timbre are no longer recording in the cinemascope that captured the vistas of Hot Dreams and Creep On Creepin’ In. Gone are the panoramic views of rolling national parks and pensive valleys; enter high-rises and well-trodden streets that brandish blackened exteriors under an intrusive neon glow.
While album number six, Sincerely, Future Pollution, marks an amendment in direction for the Canadians previously besotted with an ash lined pretence of wild America, the hallmark vocals of Taylor Kirk haven’t moved an inch, and remain equally as a haunting as the record’s title. With each breath he commands the attention with a face that signals sincerity and a musk that masks underlying dishonesty; his gothic tones are the architectural centrepiece – a common feature of all Timber Timbre records to date. Instrumentally, however, the album plays a more complex and hopeful hand than its predecessors which nestled between the differing strands of folk. As the white heat of technology intrudes further into the innocent woodlands, it’s no longer a case of playing safe and following suit – Sincerely, Future Pollution acknowledges this and doubles down with the same vigour as Bon Iver’s 22, A Million.
The momentous guitar twang on Hot Dreams, capable of drawing a Venetian blind branded with the type of sunset that lays its head in the western frontier, appears few and far between on the record, as mechanical synths step in to provide the album with a foreboding atmosphere. It’s 2017 after all; a year that stares down the barrel of an age where science fiction horror begins to unfold. For Sincerely, Future Pollution, dated projections of the future have become a reality too soon. It’s as though the courageous voyage across the open plains of fabled America has come to a premature end, only to be faced with a city oozing with a sordid charm that presents an irresistible hand before the weary-legged traveller, who duly accepts the temptation of the unknown. This blackened mirror parallel of society echoes little of the natural world, hence why an acoustic hum is suffocated on the album, and instruments with a sentient ability obediently help sculpt the tale.
“I could not release the inspiration until you asked me to” croons Kirk on opening track ‘Velvet Gloves & Spit’, with his heart pounding as the band behind plays a fitting first dance soundtrack for the big day that never quite was. While the medley of warm synths provides an initial sense of safety, a combination of the track’s imagery (high-quality gloves lined with spit) and Kirk’s husky tones send a distant coldness down the spine rest of this emotively frustrated record. Unannounced, ‘Grifting’ kicks in. Arguably the most excitable record in band’s discography – embodied by a hazy-eyed strutting riff and loose-limbed keys lifted straight from Stevie Wonder’s prize collection – it’s here that you find yourself firmly in the city, complete with torso swinging uncontrollably from a car sunroof as it veers between traffic on the congested boulevard strip. ‘Sewer Blues’ is a track equally intoxicated by the fumes of the city. The combination of razor sharp guitar and tempestuous synth breed an atmosphere as unwelcoming as the back-alley bars of sci-fi classic Total Recall, and yet Kirk melancholically vents: “I go way back to you // I’ll go way back through you”.
In spite of the heartfelt desire carelessly misplaced across the collection of tracks, Sincerely, Future Pollution is able to showcase moments of astounding beauty, akin to the landscapes which have for song long been the driving force of Timber Timbre. Once ‘Western Questions’ has finished traipsing a path smeared with society’s ills, in which Kirk ridicules ‘desperate elections’, the ‘Hollywood halo’, and ‘love lives published’, the song erupts with a beaming crescendo of crystalline guitars, cleansing all the sordid talk which had proceeded it.
‘Moment’ is another beacon of light which brushes aside its cosmetic layer of dirt. The melancholy that escapes Kirk’s pours as he utters: “a guilt gifted chance, the pleasure of you //desire deserving of something more true” delicately trickles across minor keys which each form a solemn tear of their own. The stunning scene is cut short as a restless solo paints the setting red to heighten the deep lying feelings of regret. It’s these unpredictable song structures that provide Timber Timbre with the edge that steers their music clear from becoming filed and forgotten in the bursting stream of folk. Songs such as ‘Skin Tone’ and the album’s title track take no reservations in lurking around the corner and biding their time, only to eventually peer from behind the shadows and cut a figure brandishing a brazen guitar lick or heart-stopping note, sounded on an extra-terrestrial synthesiser assembled from parts left to rust below the Nevada sun.
The whip cracking drums and tremolo-tinged riff of ‘Floating’ Cathedral swoop in as the album closes, departs the city and heads for the low standing sunset in the west with the faintest hope a natural landscape is still intact. For a band that finds its cinematic soundscapes regularly at the beckon call of TV and film producers, it’s fitting that Timber Timbre have been able to craft a fitting soundtrack for the true wild America of 2017. Sincerely, Future Pollution is a post-apocalyptic horror that breeds its discomfort in questioning whether the record’s setting is closer to home than first feared. It’s best to indulge the noir underbelly and bare no shame, for this one’s a thriller.