How do two Canadian bands manage to fill the Empty Bottle at 6pm on the first sunny Saturday in Chicago since July five billion years ago? How many pedals in a Timber Timbre band? If timber means wood, and timbre means the characteristic quality of a sound, independent of pitch and loudness, from which its source or manner of production can be inferred, could Timber Timbre win the award for the most appropriately named band ever?
These are some questions I ask myself on Saturday almost-evening when Fiver and Timber Timbre show up to transition a full audience into a strange soundtrack fit for the dark parts of Scooby Doo. While Fiver certainly brings the folk, and Timber Timbre certainly brings the weird, both groups manage to keep the intimacy inherent in the singer-songwriter at the core of their sound.
Timber Timbre messes with the four white guys in a band set up, the guitarists standing on the sides like bookends holding together the drums and keys. Taylor Kirk and Simon Trottier, Timber Timbre’s “guitarists” or loop-men, play a game of ping pong with their short and catchy melody lines and seem to boomerang an invisible bass across the stage. An instrument that first sounds like a bass but then sounds like a guitar but then sounds like a bald eagle swooping in on its prey? See, pedals.
What’s magical about Timber Timbre is they don’t get lost in the reverb. Taylor Kirk is the king of opening lines, two of which resonate particularly well with the Chicago kids: “All I need is some sunshine,” he sings, “I wanna dance with a black woman”. Kirk occasionally moves towards the center taking on the traditional role as frontman, looking out onto the crowd romantically or tenderly shifting his guitar as if it were a rifle. “What’s your name?” he asks a girl in the crowd. “Micah, this song’s for you.” See, swooning women in a crowd.
Timber Timbre’s set is split into acts that mirror what I imagine a spaceship takeoff to feel like. Act 1: Many odd sounds of anticipation coming from Trottier’s guitar during prep. Act 2: Charbonneau’s high keys in “Black water” and “Lonesomse Hunter” keep us grounded through the lazy erratic forrest of sound and help us remember this is supposed to be fun. Act 3: “Magic Arrow”, those first spooky moments in space, an echoing melody line, “bum bum badadadumdum” written in my notes. Act 4: Kirk, solitary in space, drifting about comfortable in his loneliness, letting us look in and see the root of Timber Timbre.
When Kirk sings “Demon Host” alone on stage everything makes sense. Halfway through the song the rest of the band creeps back on with a Miller High Life in hand and quietly joins in, forming the atmosphere around him. In this moment we get a glimpse of how the pieces of this mystifying unit fit together. It’s confusing, but this is the conclusion I come to. Timber Timbre = Kirk + guitar ((+ loop + bass guitar + baritone guitar + loop + unidentifiable sound + loop + etc.)). In the end what you get is not what you see and what you hear is, literally, electrifying.
Timber Timbre’s 5th album Hot Dreams released 03.31.2014 on Arts & Crafts.
Alexa Carrasco is a semi-recent college graduate and a full-time freelance everything. Alexa enjoys writing obscure poetry, making inaccessible experimental short films, and barreling through crowds at live shows.