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Sincerely, Future Pollution
[City Slang Records]
Canadian trio Timber Timbre’s music has in the past been quite accurately described as gothic folk. Their most recent album, 2014’s critically acclaimed Hot Dreams, was a gorgeously gloomy, cinematic work of bleak country/folk that consisted heavily of frontman Taylor Kirk’s distinctive baritone vocals, sweeping strings and dramatic soundscapes. However, on their sixth studio LP, Sincerely, Future Pollution, the group have thrown an absolute curveball.
Upon returning to record their latest album last year in France, the band attempted to make a sound that people could dance to. Speaking to NPR in an interview last month, Kirk said: “I had the idea that we could do something that was fun. Which … we can’t.” What they have done instead is create an electronic-heavy, futuristic, dystopic record, as the album title suggests. While this new fun side is evidently on display, they just can’t shake off their more accustomed darkness.
The most noticeable difference on here from their previous work are the strings being ditched for dreamy synthesizers. For longtime fans, listening to the cosmic-synth funk noir of ‘Grifting’ and ‘Skin Tone’ for the first time might come as a bit of a shock. The former is an upbeat electronic song that one might lately associate with John Grant. The latter is a theatrical instrumental with contrasting bouncy funk and morose synth lines.
The astonishing album centrepiece ‘Moment’ opens with beautiful, mournful keyboards and Kirk’s brooding vocals (“Timing’s off and everything’s lost and I know it”). The backing vocals in the chorus are fed through a vocoder Daft Punk-style. The bizarre guitar solo halfway through is reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen’s solo in Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ but teleported in from another galaxy, while shimmering synths close the song out.
The equally startling ‘Western Questions’ is another highlight. The dazzling, delicate musical flourishes are accompanied by some of Kirk’s grimmest lyrics depicting a decaying, corrupt world: “International witness protection through mass migration / The imminent surrender of land / Tucked in safety at the counter of a luxury liner with a noose in my hand”.
Some of the songs sound like they were custom made for a sci-fi movie soundtrack. The title track starts with a menacing bassline and dirgy guitars that are later joined by disconcerting synths and oblique lyrics painting images of a “Smoke rainbow, a halo out, a UFO light”. The dizzyingly otherworldly, psychedelic ‘Bleu Nuit’ is another one to get the vocoder treatment and could have come straight out of Tron.
Bookending both sides of the record, the band settle on more familiar terrain. Opener ‘Velvet Gloves & Spit’ has a down-tempo beat that gently introduces the keyboards that are to follow. Closing track ‘Floating Cathedral’ features sparsely-used baritone guitars and calmly winds everything down. The pair serve perfectly as an intro and outro without having the meat on them of everything in between.
While Sincerely, Future Pollution is far from flawless, it is In turns brilliant, bewildering and beguiling, but always fascinating. Where Timber Timbre go from here is anyone’s guess.
SEVEN OUT OF TEN