The sound of Timber Timbre travels at its own pace, arriving unhurried. In the musical company of Taylor Kirk, the man behind the moniker, time slows down.
The effect largely arises from his low, resonant voice---an aged sound. "I'm almost 28 now, and I'm a painfully shy person, so singing has come really slowly for me," explains Kirk by email from Toronto. (Schedule conflicts made connecting with the man, unlike the music, difficult.)
"I would whisper-sing for a long time so that no one would overhear me when I'd practice or make recordings. I must've been around 21 before I ever sang for anyone, and later still before I considered performing my songs in public," continues Kirk. He's released three albums to date: Cedar Shakes in 2006, Medicinals in 2007 and a self-titled release came out earlier this year.
It's just been announced that Timber Timbre has been signed to Arts & Crafts (home to Feist, Broken Social Scene and others). The self-titled album, which came out originally on Out of this Spark, will be re-released at the end of June and internationally in late July. (Out of this Spark also signed on for a distribution deal with Arts & Crafts.)
"I've only recently started to feel more confident as a singer. It's taken some time to develop that comfort level to even experiment with affectations in order to really use my voice as an instrument."
While there is his guitar, hints of banjo, organ, violin and soft touches of percussion, Kirk's voice is the main instrument in Timber Timbre. It comes across clear, untreated, in the way of Antony of Antony and the Johnsons, Vic Chestnutt, John Cale or Lou Reed (whom Kirk mentions).
The third track off Timber Timbre, "Until the Night is Over," opens with psychedelic strains that bring to mind "Venus in Furs" by Reed and Cale's old band, Velvet Underground, crossed with The Animals.
Kirk counts among his contemporaries, at home in Toronto, the likes of Great Lake Swimmers, Bruce Peninsula and The Weather Station (also on the bill this weekend). He also thanks Halifax folk duo, The Ghost Bees. "Musically, we're working in a similar temperament, and we're all interested in the mining of older forms and musical canons to find something new."
Along with the sense of moments expanding---time stretching out---this music opens up a space Kirk fills with rich visuals, drawing, he points out, on memory, "archetypal" symbols, film and paintings. "Lyrics are difficult for me because I've always related much more to imagery rather than textual work. So even if I'm attempting to construct a very narrative piece of songwriting, it ends up translating into these kind of fragmented visual descriptions or glimpses." Examples are found throughout the new album. Nature's fecundity ("nightcrawlers," "algae," for example) often serves in metaphor.
Kirk evokes a setting and its state of mind in short, simple lines. In opener "Demon Host," the second verse starts: "Here is a church, here is a steeple/Open the doors, and there are the people/And all their little hearts at ease/for another week's disease."
The second song, "Lay Down in the Tall Grass," begins: "Lay down in the tall grass/in a flat-bottomed boat." Again, there's nothing overwrought. He combines two images to speak of a single sensation: being adrift in thought, daydream.
"A song could be the result of anything I suppose. It's entirely circumstantial. For me, it's always a solitary and spiritual kind of activity, but it's not really something I regard as mystical or mysterious," writes Kirk.
Openness to circumstance and simplicity works for Kirk. Listeners feel free to bring their own ideas and images to the songs. A good storyteller also listens close to others. "With this last record I think I was inspired by music---listening to music I hadn't spent time with since I was much younger. I became interested in recreating the essence of an Animals song, or a Roy Orbison song, but in my own way," Kirk adds.