Melancholy chillwave that can still support more upbeat tracks.
Canada wants to warn us about the future. At least it would seem so based on the Canadian synth band Austra’s latest release, Future Politics, and now Canadian gothic-folk outfit Timber Timbre’s fourth album, Sincerely, Future Pollution. Like Austra, Timber Timbre hone an atmospheric vintage sound. But whereas the former puts an emphasis on danceable beats, Taylor Kirk and company are experts in ambiance. Previous albums saw them create this dreamy and unnerving sound with a greater emphasis on guitars, but Pollution goes straight for moody synths and smooth drum machines. The result is a melancholy chillwave that can still support more upbeat tracks.
The influence throughout this album is that glossy ’80s sound, with some moments of funk thrown in for good measure. The predominant mode, however, is sultry moodiness. Opener “Velvet Gloves & Spit” gives you that ’80s mental image of velvet gloves while musically sounding a lot like When in Rome’s “The Promise.” I never thought I’d hear a love song about saliva as good as Broken Social Scene’s “Lover’s Spit,” but a smoldering organ and gentle beat back up Kirk’s croon, setting the mood for a true nostalgia trip. “Grifting” is very David Bowie. Kirk’s low, husky delivery—with the occasional uptick in backing vocals—would be enough to prompt the comparison, but the funky bass line and smooth synth outro has a very “Golden Years” quality to it. And that funky style continues into instrumental “Skin Tone.” “Floating Cathedral” taps into the Beatles’ “And I Love Her” and carries its blocky percussion throughout, managing to transform the guitar line from that love ballad into a chilling track.
The electronic emphasis purposefully conveys the retro-futuristic, but Timber Timbre’s vision of that is dystopic, its message cautionary. “Sewer Blues” lays it out bluntly: “It’s all fleshed out/ Fleshed out and forgotten now.” “Moment” couches this despondence in the personal, with Kirk mourning, “Timing’s off/ Everything’s lost and I know it/ Elixirs wear off/ And each dose the cost/ Of a memory/ One can’t be all things to someone/ Likewise a friend.” The creeping “Western Questions,” however, paints the eeriest, most dystopian picture: “International witness protection/ Through mass migration/ The imminent surrender of land/ Cloaked in safety/ At the counter of a luxury liner/ With a noose in my hand.”
Across Pollution, the band juxtaposes its bleak moments with unfettered solos that radiate hope and possibility. For every electronic breakdown and degradation there is a sunnier guitar line, still brooding but less despondent. “Western Questions” follows its slow, ticking beat with a rocking guitar and gated drum outro. “Bleu Nuit” builds itself up to a crescendo with an ascending scale and latter-half horns. The euphoria of brass is tempered by Kirk’s robotic vocals, so distorted they’re incomprehensible. Ballad “Moment” begins with euphoric synth chords, petering off during the fairly minimalist verses. A reverbed guitar backs Kirk’s disaffected vocals, both distorted and layered for a robotic effect on the chorus. But that still-melodic sound is abandoned towards the end of the track for a squealing guitar breakdown.
The total electronic focus of Sincerely, Future Pollution plays into the album’s overall themes. But, more than that, it suits Timber Timbre incredibly well. Where their distorted guitar lines are beautiful, the synths on this album bring a sleekness to the ambiance, which can be either breathtaking or disturbing depending on the band’s intention with each track. These nine songs are at once a throwback to the experimental ’80s and an exciting indication of how Timber Timbre continue to grow.