The music of Timber Timbre has in some ways always existed outside of the real world. Their songs play out less like personal musings, and more like elaborate movies; full of sleazy motels, corruption, power and lies. However, like many of us in 2016, the band’s singer Taylor Kirk watched on in horror as the news set about blurring the lines between reality and fiction, sounding less like the real world, and more like a particularly unnerving episode of House Of Cards.
“When we were recording, the premonition was that the events we saw unfolding were an elaborate hoax. But the mockery made of our power system spawned a lot of dark, dystopic thoughts and ideas. And then it all happened, while everyone was on Instagram. The sewers overflowed”.
That’s perhaps the most odd, and terrifying, thing about the content of the band’s new album, Sincerely, Future Pollution; in many ways it’s the band’s most dystopian, stark and unnerving record to date, and simultaneously it also feels like their most real. Taylor Kirk’s words remain as cinematic, visceral and shocking as ever, only whilst previously he felt like he was narrating a fictional film, now he’s narrating the real world, and he’s inviting us to watch it burn alongside him.
Sincerely, Future Pollution was written back in 2015, and marks a shift in the working patterns of the band. On previous records Taylor had focused ideas for how each song would turn out when he presented them to the band. This time as he puts it, “my solitary sketching was left more rudimentary than in the past”. This led to a more communal writing process, one the band describe as less focused and far more complex than previous writing periods. The album was recorded in La Frette chateau outside of Paris. This studio is resplendent with synthesisers, which play a much greater role on this record, despite Timber Timbre admitting, “none of us are massive fans of electronic and pop music”.
The whole recording process seemed to be one of experimentation, and removing themselves from what might be considered their comfort zone. This shift was inspired by the twin musical pioneers Prince & David Bowie, two artists Taylor admired for, “how totally unrestricted and unbound they were by any notion of taste or genre or style”. This freer way of working allowed Timber Timbre to find new ways of expressing their desires for Sincerely, Future Pollution, and allowed them to discover the cold, bleak tones that tied into their vision for this record.
How this experimentation works sonically is intriguing. Sincerely, Future Pollution is probably their most varied offering to date. There’s plenty of hallmarks of past Timber Timbre releases; Taylor’s unmistakable, croaked vocals, the ambitious wide-screen instrumentation, and the prominent use of bass. Yet away from that, there are elements that seem strangely alien. Recent single, Grifting, is a series of rip off scams set to a frankly disgustingly funky guitar line, with a touch of John Grant’s latest offering. As Taylor sings, “wasted poker faces, smoke in mirrored places, sleight of hand, then weightless, vanished, gone and traceless”, it’s so convincing you find yourself checking whether your wallet is still in your pocket by the end of it – even if a closer listen reveals it’s aimed more at politicians than your friendly local con man.
The album’s opening track, Velvet Glove & Spit is immediately intriguing. A cursory listen could mistake this for a somewhat sweet love song, with its warm glistening synthesisers, strutting bass line and skittering percussion. Even Taylor’s vocals sound uncharacteristically warm, yet there’s of course a twist, the lyrics paint a vision of not love but obsession and a relationship doomed to fail, “our castle in the sand built too high, too soon”.
Elsewhere, Moment is the most personal sounding moment, as over glistening synths and vocodered backing vocals, Taylor sings of how, “one can’t be all things to someone and likewise a friend”. The title track is an ominous, dense portrait painted with synth tones and ominous rumbling bass lines and the album’s first single Sewer Blues is a ragged vision of a futuristic vision of cities collapsing into darkness and decay.
The album’s finest moment, is the bruising state of the planet address, Western Questions. Set to a backing of a bossa-nova like beat, and rolling bass lines, it is a lyrical dissection of political corruption, celebrity culture and our role in it all. Taylor sings of, “western questions, desperate elections, campaign halloween” as he mourns the loss of the American dream, noting the, “disappearance of a floating cathedral into the sewer”. The track offers no answers to the questions, but it does come implicit with the idea that we all played our role by buying into a society that puts greed and national interest ahead of basic human decency.
Sincerely, Future Pollution is a fascinating record, it is one that pushes Timber Timbre’s music into places they’ve never been before. Arguably it lacks the immediacy and consistent atmospherics of Hot Dreams, but it’s a record that suggests a band with a new-found freedom to push their music in any direction, and that can surely only be a good thing. If the world is sliding into darkness, Timber Timbre might just have written the perfect soundtrack to go with it.
Sincerely, Future Pollution is out now via City Slang. Click HERE for tour dates and more information on Timber Timbre.