Friday, April 29, 2011


Gloomy, subdued lighting and the Twin Peaks soundtrack. The screen at the rear of the stage set to start playing FW Murnau’s 1922 expressionist horror movie "Nosferatu". Then dry ice billowing on to the stage. It all made me think ‘surely this is a bit much?’ True Timber Timbre’s latest album “Creep On Creepin’ On” wallows in an even more macabre and swampy voodoo-blues than its predecessor but hey, nothing too spooky is going to happen. Is it?

On stage each of the three mic stands were adorned with antique inspection lamps glowing malevolently blood-orange. The three performers wordlessly took to the stage and from the outset it was clear they were out to chill our bones – and in a way that left the pre-show theatricals looking, well, stagey. Here the delicacy of the arrangements on record was swapped for a more intense pulsing rhythmic groove on these murky songs of shallow graves, dark magic, ghosts and demon hosts. And singer Taylor Kirk’s gentle crooning was swapped for a deeper and meaner growl.

It was a novel but effective set-up on stage: Kirk sat centre stage on a round stool with guitar; to his left Simon Trottier played lap steel and second guitar also seated and on the other side Mika Posen stood at keyboards or to play the violin. Drum kit parts and effects pedals were distributed liberally amongst the three – Kirk had a kick pedal attached to a tambourine and a separate bass drum, Posen beat out ominous rhythms with her left hand on a floor tom whilst playing keyboard with her right hand. During opener ‘Bad Ritual’ a lone press photographer made his way to the front but the intimidating shake of the head and scowl from singer Taylor Kirk was unmistakable in its intention (my own camera stayed firmly in my pocket). It may have just been the seriousness of the performance but I got the distinct impression that Kirk is not a man to be crossed. He sung mainly with eyes closed or looking down to the floor at first but when he raised his head and glared into the crowd with his deep coal-black eyes it was unnerving.

The band played all of the latest album (except the three instrumentals) together with four from its predecessor. It made for a short set (an hour and fifteen with encore) but delivered with such an oppressive intensity I’m not sure audience or band could cope with more. The moments of light(er) relief came from some of the earlier songs with their quieter passages and sparser arrangements. However it feels odd to describe the eerie scraping noises from both lap steel and violin and the pained yelps from Kirk during ‘Lay Down In The Tall Grass’ as relief, particularly given the lyrical reference to choking your children.

If the uniformity of the mood is a quibble, it’s a minor one. Especially so when that mood of Grand Guignol spine-tingle was so effectively created, cloaking the faux-Victoriana warmth of the Deaf Institute into something more sepulchral. Faithful to the record but also elevating its morbid, spooky side, it was a performance that, like the shadowy German expressionist horror screening behind them, managed to turn the sunny outdoors to dark and to fill our dreams with disturbing and stark images.

The Set List:

Bad Ritual
Creep On Creepin’ On
Too Old To Die Young
Black Water
Demon Host
Until The Night Is Over
Lonesome Hunter
Lay Down In The Tall Grass
Do I Have Power?
Trouble Comes Knocking

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