Monday, April 04, 2011

TIMBER TIMBRE "Creep On Creepin' On"

I didn’t really engage with the eponymous Timber Timbre album released in summer 2009. I narrowly bracketed it with the swathes of bearded log-cabin troubadours that came to prominence in the wake of the commercial and critical successes of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes that year. An appearance by the Canadians at last year’s End of the Road Festival should have helped dispel my misconceptions but sadly their travel plans went awry and they didn’t get to play. However this year’s album “Creep On Creepin’ On” certainly puts me right. On a number of counts too.

The trio of Mika Posen, Simon Trottier and Taylor Kirk have taken the bare country-noir of that first album proper (it followed two self-released albums in 2006 and 2007) an impressive stride further on. Released this week, “Creep On Creepin’ On” manages to expand the instrumentation, extend the swampy voodoo-blues feel but also retain a focused intimacy and intensity too (no expansive Arcade Fire-style stadium fillers here). So now alongside the acoustic and lapsteel guitars, autoharp, violin, loops and percussion is piano (from Mathieu Charbonneau of experimental improv trio Torngat) and saxophone. And don’t be put off by the latter – on some songs I didn’t even recognised the harsh horn squeals as saxophone (think Magic Band rather than Magic FM).

The piano makes it presence immediately felt in lead track ‘Bad Ritual’ setting an emphatic nodding pace and adding to the spooky atmospherics. Kirk’s sweet but haunted baritone croons throughout, occasionally ominous but always hypnotic whether he is singing of possessive love, rituals, poltergeists or a lack of sunshine. The title track unites celestial strings and doo-wop innocence, the soulful pulse of ‘Do I Have Power’ recalls the macabre cabaret of Dead Man’s Bones and the instrumental ‘Swamp Magic’ is pure spookiness: all eerie violin, crashes and creaks. The mysterious frights are amplified in the chilling pounding intro and the twanging guitars of ‘Woman’. But if ‘swampy voodoo-blues’ makes you think of the hammy theatricals of Screaming Jay Hawkins this is misleading. There is an almost formal poise and elegance to the band’s precise arrangements here; there is nothing camp or comic-book to the murky swirl of instrumental ‘Obelisk’ and final wordless coda ‘Souvenirs’ recalls the apocalyptic post-rock quiet of Godspeed! You Black Emperor.

My musical references may be scattergun, this album isn’t. There is a purity and rich cinematic scope to “Creep On Creepin’ On” that is magnetic and beguiling – and this is its real voodoo magic. It will be fascinating to compare this to the Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes follow-up records later this year. I know who I’m backing to have progressed the most.

Timber Timbre - Black Water by Arts & Crafts

Timber Timbre Creep On Creepin' On [BUY or BUY]

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