Timber Timbre – Islington Assembly Hall, London (March 16, 2012)

For Canada’s Timber Timbre this foray to the UK has the worrying risk of making them a household name, this one off headline show being cobbled onto the back of a Laura Marling support slot.  More alarming is tonight appearing to be a Taylor Kirk solo show rather than Timber Timbre live.

Timber Timbre's - Creep on Creepin' On

Although I’ve never been a touring rock god, I do have an understanding of ‘The Biz’ and if a band secures a major support slot, the band bloomin’ well turns up: Three people in the back of a van and a bag of records to sell. Career progression 101 isn’t it?

Timber Timbre, though, are hardly radio friendly unit shifters and, let’s be honest here, won’t be troubling festival headline bookers. Instead they have their own commodity, hypnotically sweeping melancholia which trumps feeble gimmicks like band members or this fame malarkey.

Their name-drobablility is unquestionable, having received Poaris Prize nominations for Timber Timbre and Creep On Creepin’ On.  The latter in particular propelled them in to the realm of cinematic horror blues, aurally monochrome and spookily organic. What makes Creep On Creepin’ On’s otherworldliness so special is it’s musical layering and intriguing nuances. How can one man replicate this?

Well he can’t. Kirk looks small on the red lit stage, with just a guitar and bass drum resembling a divorced Bog Log III with the humour leeching into a grimy blues swamp. Stripped back to such a degree loses the songs depth as they meander into a monotonous trail of empty promises. Playing Timber Timbre’s catalogue apparently means an acoustic guitar strummed at the same tempo repeatedly plinky plonking, proving Simon Trottier and Mika Posen’s input is essential.

Kirk has two vocal styles maudlin and maudlin Chris Issac, which occasionally brushes against a 50’s pulp croon, but more often is a vocal reinterpretation of Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross.  His voice, however, is dreamy and epic as it fills the hall, we just can’t hear what he’s singing. He sings I Put A Spell On You, a majestic song, but it’s lost all of the bite Screamin’ Jay Hawkins embedded into it.

No doubt falling into Kirk’s trap, to become hypnotised by his stylish blues voice, would allow his songs to become clearer, but independent though means it was just too delicate to be gripping. The highlight’s being Magic Arrows’ gritty tremolo, and the use of one of those trendy overlapping recorder effects which seem so popular with friendless singer-songwriters. When Aidan Moffat or Gruff Rhys deploy this tool, it’s to create magnificently executed soundscapes. Kirk overlaps duck noises.

Tonight’s pace is acknowledged by Kirk: “Are you ready to rock out? Too Bad.” He’s also quite humorous introducing a new song as the scariest he’s ever written, its opening line, “I came to Paris to kill you” prompting the crowd’s laughter. To which Kirk responds “It’s not meant to be funny”.  There was also some complaining about him going bald and the lights were reflecting it, hence the show’s brothel red hue.

As far as a voice goes, Kirk’s is dreamy and mesmerising, if lacking in clarity, but it’s not enough. The beautiful bar-room noir of Timber Timbre records was rejected for a case of just going through the motions.

If Kirk doesn’t want to be a band, try, or anything expected from a touring musician then don’t bother doing it, especially accepting a mainstream Marling tour, and certainly don’t treat us as passively accepting lapdogs.

by David Newbury


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