Following up 2014’s stellar Hot Dreams, Timber Timbre return with their sixth album Sincerely, Future Pollution – a decidedly moodier collection of tracks, which veers further instrumentally and thematically from a twisted 50s psychological thriller and more closely to an industrial 80s neo-noir. The picture remains monochromatic, but the ambiance much colder and the lens wider.
Having decided to travel abroad to record the new album (La Frette chateau outside of Paris), with the studio providing an array of synthesizers at their disposal, the trio – Taylor Kirk, Mathieu Charbonneau and Simon Trottier – swap out the traditional reverb-laden, tremolo-heavy guitars that are sonic trademarks for warped, throbbing synths and chilly drum machines, which play remarkably well with Kirk’s familiar croon. This change can be immediately heard on album opener “Velvet Gloves & Spit.” Synths and organ lead the track along with a mix of live and electronic drums for one of the sunnier tracks on Sincerely, Future Pollution. Sombre yes, but still sunny.
In fact, up until “Sewer Blues,” the first single released in January, the album’s instrumental palette is quite colourful and even warm, featuring vibraphone and natural bird songs at the intro of “Skin Tone,” along with the shimmering melodies and breezy guitars for most of “Moment.” The latter track being one of the most beautiful, earnest ballads the band has recorded to date. However, once the instrumental second half kicks off with a driving beat, we then enter a slick, truly 80s-sounding outro with synth arpeggios and steely, phased-out guitar squeals. It’s a distinct shift in tone, one that’s not entirely natural or necessary, which then carries onto “Sewer Blues” and throughout the album’s latter half until the sombre/sunny closer “Floating Cathedral” fades us into the sunset.
Timber Timbre have always lent themselves to vivid cinematic imagery, both in lyrics and music that carry a significant thematic weight. Previous themes included questioning the worth of one’s love and intimacy, whether they deserve such pleasures, and often contemplating the memory of an embrace and feeling. On Sincerely, Future Pollution, Kirk still makes room for these motifs of love, worthiness and loss on tracks like “Velvet Glove & Spit” and “Moment,” but the frontman has other concerns and ideas of loss in sight, ones which are more abstract, alienating and sociopolitical. Hinted at in the title, this album takes on technology and its effects in terms of environmental degradation, social degeneration and technological decay. Moving beyond the title, the lyrics include mentions of natural and artificial materials or ideas blending together as on “Floating Cathedral” where Kirk sings: “A Coney Island mermaid/Caught out in the sludge tide” and “The king of devotion/His death on Instagram.” Even the synthesizers occasionally sound broken, as they sonically decay and deteriorate near the end of “Bleu Nuit.”
Though Kirk’s exact message isn’t so clear beyond ‘this is happening and the future doesn’t look so promising’, the themes expressed and explored across the impressive Sincerely, Future Pollution are mature, venturing into a mire of bleak, dystopian landscapes accompanied by quiet, dark and brooding instrumental passages. With a noticeable shift in instrumentation and lyrical subject matter, Timber Timbre have successfully broadened their musical and thematic scope on their newest effort, making for a more difficult and less immediate listening experience as found on Hot Dreams, but a similarly rewarding one.