The most immediately striking thing about the third album from Toronto’s Timber Timbre — the name Taylor Kirk writes and records under — is just how spooky it is. Even though album opener “Demon Host” begins with just a delicately strummed acoustic guitar and Kirk’s cooing voice, the album’s mood is instantly set. There’s something foreboding about the way those guitar strings are picked and Kirk’s mournful voice, which sounds like it should be coming from the sedated ghost of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, that only adds to the ominous tone. By the time the piano and backup vocals enter, the song has long since established its rural-murder-scene vibe.
“Lay Down in the Tall Grass” follows and keeps things equally unsettling. The song’s insistent piano plunks away as if it’s coming from some macabre French circus that is sure to be the last thing any of its patrons ever witness and Kirk tosses off the lines “And only you could revive me/ So badly decomposed/ I was born white, dry and scaly/ But you still took me home.” The beat on “Trouble Comes Knocking” is close to a blues stomp, but in Kirk’s hands it’s more akin to the lurch of a monster mucking around in the mausoleums of New Orleans.
Put simply, on Timber Timbre, Kirk offers some seriously dark music. Fortunately, he pulls it off remarkably well. The folk- and blues-derived songs aren’t complex, but they’re certainly effective as mood pieces. Like a worm burrowing its way into a coffin to feast on the fetid remains therein, Kirk’s songs have a way of sneaking into heads and refusing to leave. The album might be uncomfortably eerie at times, but listeners will soon find themselves wanting to experience it again.