There’s no doubt that the Canadian folk music project Timber Timbre boasts an entirely unique sound, emitting a melancholy reminiscent of the National but with a spooky, retro twist. The band’s newest album, Hot Dreams, is an ambitious project that propels listeners into what seems like a cinematic, black-and-white horror film experience, with Taylor Kirk’s eerie and placid vocals guiding us through it. The album is as much seductive as it is creepy, with hollow and haunting sonic gestures that together compose an alternate universe ambience.
The album begins with the dreamy and unearthly tune, Beat The Drum Slowly, featuring an acoustic guitar hum and xylophone-like droplets of sound. The last two minutes of the track take the form of an all-instrumental build-up, with a pronounced semblance to a horror movie soundtrack. Right when it feels like we’re about to be murdered in a cold, dark, Canadian forest, the band jumps into Hot Dreams, a floaty, serene combination of vocals and background sounds. The track is nostalgic and lamenting, with grooves that could be set perfectly to a retro advertisement for a Hawaii vacation, as a smooth sax solo floats listeners slowly back into the era of fifties forlorn crooners like Elvis. The track is velvety and alluring, offering a calm before the storm moment.
The remaining tracks demonstrate Timber Timbre’s playful versatility, with tracks like Curtains!? that manifest as jazzier, more dangerous and more threatening, with cutting guitar riffs and a ’60s psychedelic vibe. Others, like Bring Me Simple Men, take the form of southern-sounding, straightforward tunes, boasting string embellishments that could accompany an old western film. Grand Canyon comes closer to a love song or ballad, with twinges of optimism and landscape-heavy lyrics that draw up a cinematic shot of a Wyoming sunset. Again the folky, country sound emerges, with a retro guitar twang and nonchalant, legend-inducing vocals. This Low Commotion similarly slows the album down. A combination of a tribute and a lament to an icon, Kirk croons about a “low commotion” which seems to epitomize the dramatic sounds, low tempo and feeling of descent that weaves through Hot Dreams.
The album is spliced with theatrical, all-instrumental tracks like Resurrection Drive Part II and The Three Sisters, which together imbue the album with a sinister, foreboding feel that might appeal to spooky cinemtaic masters like David Lynch. What results is an album that rises and drops in moments of fear and thrill or sorrow and sadness, and takes listeners with them in these over-exaggerated climbs and descents. At times it can sounds like a satire of an old horror film sounscape, and at others an authentic, antique expression of a specific melancholy. But throughout, Kirk’s wobbly vocals hang around, leading us through this experience that is simultaneously spine-chilling, a little heartbreaking and undoubtedly addicting. By the end, we’re not sure whether we’ve been murdered and are now in some alternate universe, or whether we somehow made a clean escape.