Timber Timbre, ICA, London
Friday 29 April 2011
Timber Timbre have been described as folk, pop, rhythm and blues, and even doo-wop. However, at the ICA they were simply the deepest and most delightful shade of gothic dark.
On tour following their recently released LP, Creep On Creepin' On, which veers unexpectedly from spookily discordant instrumentals to catchy 1960s-style melodies, it's easy to understand why the Montreal trio are so hard to define.
And with the singer and lyricist Taylor Kirk having gone to film school and citing non-musical influences, which include writer John Steinbeck and realist painter Andrew Wyeth, the atmospheric compositions often have a soundtrack-like quality reminiscent of David Lynch's brand of bleak Americana.
The band proved just how well their music lends itself to film by screening the 1922 goth horror silent film Nosferatu behind them as they played. A black stage, red lighting, and Kirk looking decidedly sinister in a monastic hood may all sound comically melodramatic, but was in fact totally enrapturing and eerie as hell, even spooking the (unusually quiet for London) audience into silence.
"Nosferatu – that name can chill the blood" read the screen. And boy, when Kirk's first lyrics resonated eerily in "Bad Ritual" they did just that, jolting the audience out of its gothic trance, as did his sporadic shrieks and shock-inducing strikes on the electric guitar.
Soon after came the latest album's eponymous track with band member Mika Posen's violin stimulating a deep melancholy, and sounding a lot darker and less poppy than on the album. Old favourite "Until the Night Is Over" was also a sombre version of the original.
Kirk's imploring line "All I need is some sunshine" in the band's toe-tapping single "Black Water" was suitably anguished and heightened by the gloomy vampire tragedy unfolding behind.
It was only during the encore ("Trouble Comes Knocking") that the gothic spell was broken. Kirk re-emerged grinning sans costume and acknowledged the crowd for the first time. Personally, I'd have preferred him to keep up the theatrics, but maybe the nice Canadian in him was too overpowering. And with the gig lasting only an hour, we didn't get to see the end of the film either.
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