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Live Review and Photos: Timber Timbre, April 27, 2011, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London





Are you a fan of horror? Are you a fan of music? If the answer to both of those is yes, and you haven’t listened to Timber Timbre yet, then what the hell are you waiting for? The band have always had a spooky element to their music but on the newest album, Creep On Creepin’ On, they’ve stepped it up a notch. I won’t go into detail because, well, I already did that, but suffice it to say that the mood of the record didn’t end in the studio; Timber Timbre have taken their demons on tour.

Shortly before the band took to the stage, a film started rolling on the large screen in the back. It turned out to be none other than the 1922 silent horror classic Nosferatu. While the opening credits rolled, the band walked out into the stage, which was bathed in gruesomely red light, and remained that way unwaveringly throughout the night. The band started up into “Bad Ritual” just as the first scene came on screen, and although there was never quite a moment of complete synergy between the music and the film, they complimented each other nicely.

The main thing that I noticed from the band’s performance is that if you want to be in Timber Timbre you have to be able to multitask. At first, I was a little disappointed that Kirk’s vocals, although double tracked, didn’t quite hold the same eerie echo that they do on record. But when I realised that they were going to try to recreate just about every other sound from Creep On Creepin’ On (and there are a lot of them) between the three of them, my initial misgivings quickly shifted to feverish intrigue, and by the end of the night utter wonder.

For starters, there is no traditional drummer between the three of them. Instead Kirk and Mika Posen split a kit – Posen taking the tom, which she hit rhythmically whenever she was afforded time between playing violin and/or keyboard; and Kirk taking the bass drum and snare – both hooked up with foot pedals so that he could thump while also singing and playing guitar. Oh yeah, there were no cymbals, so Kirk also had a tambourine hooked up to yet another foot pedal. Sometimes though, this wasn’t quite right, or wouldn’t have been possible, so drums were looped, which, considering the atmosphere, seemed to derive from an invisible ghostly presence.

Simon Trottier switched between guitar and lap steel continuously throughout the night, while also playing auto-harp. And with his vast array of pedals and looping stations strewn around his hands and feet he just about managed to fill in every detail of the songs. The only thing really missing was the brass; but Trottier did a fantastic job of filling in their part at the crucial moments by cranking up the distortion on his lap steel, and rocking out at the conclusion of “Do I Have Power.”

This complex arrangements meant that the songs lacked the tightness of the studio versions, but who goes to a live show to see the songs identically recreated? Without a strict rhythm that a drummer would have provided, the songs were looser, but it gave them a spectral quality. Kirk toyed with his vocals, theatrically adding emphasis to random words or pouring added emotion into the poignant lyrics.

Through the main set, the band members stayed more or less silent and they allowed the songs to bleed into each other where they could. The crowd observed this, seemingly bewitched and unsure when to clap – but rest assured they made their appreciation known whenever an opportunity presented itself.

The setlist included all seven of the actual songs from Creep On Creepin’ On as well as half of Timber Timbre, with the older songs fitting into this creepy guise perfectly.

The crowd could have easily watched the band go on for much longer. Not that the set was short, but it was so engrossing that any end would have seemed too soon. You can’t blame the band though; maintaining those stoic, diminutive personas for over an hour must be difficult. Not to mention the actual playing. Still, it would have been awesome if they had extended their set to finish in time with the final credits of Nosferatu. In future they should consider doing that; and they should edit their names into the credits too: they’d deserve it.


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