[25 October 2009]
It’s a little known fact that cinematic music rarely seeks out the cinema. This might seem a strange claim at first, but consider it: how many expansive, atmospheric, visual, or otherwise acts that you know of end up on movie soundtracks? The answer is not many—some, some of the time (Radiohead anyone?) but certainly not all, all of the time.
So what does accompany big-screen worship? It seems to me that Timber Timbre, with their self-titled and apparently much-hyped debut, come pretty close. If all of this sounds like a venomous criticism, perhaps it shouldn’t. Timber Timbre at their best are quite interesting, as well as strangely unsettling (I consider this a good thing). On a misguided attempt at plotting music on a spectrum, these folk-blues-pop-god knows what songs would land somewhere between Bon Iver’s low-fi aesthetic, Fleet Foxes’ straight-faced vocal delivery, and the deep blues of Robert Johnson. That is, if all three happened to meet in a haunted, abandoned carnival. Frontman Taylor Kirk also has a rather endearing, if limited, voice. Minimalism is employed well throughout, such as in “Until the Night is Over”, and “Magic Arrow”. So far, all so pleasantly functional.
And therein lies the problem. For a start, there’s that crippling Movie Soundtrack Disease. The symptoms include wishy-washy melodies and songs that rely too much on mood instead of strength, but the overall effect is far more damaging. And it’s this: it’s next to impossible, for all my efforts, to get emotionally attached to these songs. You want them to accompany an on-screen yarn about a hardened road traveller traipsing across Clichéd Old Country, Alabama. You want them to be wilder and less safe. And while it does move (though painfully slowly at times), most of all you want Timber Timbre to take you along for the ride, instead of leaving you by yourself, fed up and frustrated.
All of which is not to say it’s never good. Opener “Demon Host” is a fun strum along, if you can ignore the dull clang of Kirk’s occasional lyrical clichés, and “We’ll Find Out” has a strong, old-timey melody. The thing is, for me at least, thinly spread pleasantries just don’t cut it on a mostly forgettable album. There’s just too much repetitiveness here, too many flat, uninvolved arrangements. When I got to the end first, I couldn’t recall a single song on Timber Timbre, or a single lyric.
Which is, in short, why Timber Timbre in 2009 would be perfect for the cinema: nobody watches movies to recall the music. Just as well, because after this, you won’t be able to.