Timber Timbre, by Jeff Bierk
Timber Timbre. (photo: Jeff Bierk)

On Tuesday, May 9, the Canadian quartet known as Timber Timbre (pronounced Timber Tamber) hosted a sold-out but intimate evening at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.

Since their 2006 debut, the band has heavily focused on a futuristic, dystopian, and ultra-reflective variety of folk music. However their sixth and most recent record, Sincerely, Future Pollution, released just last month, is a marked departure from the alternative-reality psycho-blues that enveloped their earlier releases.

On Tuesday night, signs requesting the turning off and putting away of cell phones and that no photos or video records taken were everywhere. One or two on every pillar, every few feet on the wall, inside and even outside the venue. Timber Timbre clearly wanted the audience to surrender to the moment of music and be transported into their world.

Unfortunately, being in the day and age we are, I take most of my notes at shows on my phone. In spite of my technological crutch, I paid my respect to the artists on stage and left my phone in my pocket, drinking in the eerie sounds.

Walking on stage around 9:15, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Taylor Kirk, guitarist Simon Trottier, keyboardist Mathieu Charbonneau, and drummer Mike Wheaton greeted the crowd and opened with the title track of their new album “Sincerely, Future Pollution.”

Having been a casual, but dedicated, fan since 2010, I was familiar with the ways of the band, but being that this was my first time seeing them in a live setting and as they are debuting new, synth-heavy tunes, I was surprised. Are these wildly overdriven and reverb-drenched tones being eaten alive by the pollution of the future? Is the synthesizer the source of this sincere pollutant?

Being that the next three songs were also from the new album, “Sewer Blues,” “Velvet Gloves and Spit” (which were the first two singles to be released), I truly had some time to digest the new music. I had always considered a band of Timber Timbre’s variety best enjoyed with headphones at the least, or a high-end stereo system at near-maximum volume, and the live stage translation of some of these tunes were a big draw for me.

The title track from 2014’s Hot Dream split the Pollution tracks “Moment” and “Western Questions” and I came to the conclusion that Timber Timbre is an out-of-time band. Imagine if the Cure’s formative years were spent in a remote Canadian cabin.

The second half of the show focused less on the new record and featured a wider variety of Timber Timbre's catalog. I couldn’t tell if these songs were reinventions of the songs that I grew accustomed to through my headphones, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t every bit as infectious and melodramatic as the Cure — even down to Kirk’s wild hair style hinting at a deeper Robert Smith.

“Curtains” and 2009’s “Until The Night Is Over” blazed the way to the familiar notes of “Black Water” before another pair of new tracks, “Grifting” and “Bleu Nuit,” The set ended with a triplet, one tune from each of the previous three records: “Do I Have Power,” the second of three tunes from Creep On Creepin’ On, “Beat The Drum Slowly,” and my personal favorite and the song that introduced me to the Timber Timbre, “Trouble Comes Knocking.”

Given how surprised I was to hear the differences and similarities between the albums I knew and the show in front of me, I had hoped all evening that they would play “Trouble,” a song I am very familiar with. It didn’t have the stark emptiness and creeping violin, but the tones and overall spook factor were totally present. Normally, the song carries the same tension you’d find from a serial killer scene in a television episode — brooding, methodical, and clean. None of that was lost, but the performance of it felt feverish and frenzied, yet 100% in control. I could rest easy and satisfied.

For the encore, Kirk and Wheaton returned to the stage first for Hot Dreams’ “Grand Canyon.” The rest of the band joined them to close the show with “Woman” and their most widely-recognized tune, “Magic Arrow.”

Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the show. From my position in the rear of the room, I did not observe anyone breaking the no-cell-phone request, prompting Kirk to remark at one point: “This is the kindest room we’ve played in a very long time. I’m not just saying that.”

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