“Hot Dreams,” the third studio album released by the Canadian folk music project Timber Timbre, is a curious witches’ brew. The atmospheres conjured by its 10 delicious tracks balance the listener somewhere between the graveyard and the ghoulish afterlife — a kind of demon’s purgatory.
In this alternate state, spooky, colorful sounds swirl around you like the liberated ghosts from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The beat is heart-heavy — a last reminder of life left behind — and the language isn’t one of words, but of whispers.
Championing this death march is the crooning vocalist Taylor Kirk, whose slack-lip swagger that Pitchfork compared to Elvis Presley’s in its 2011 review of the studio album, “Creep on Creepin’ On.” The swagger remains in “Hot Dreams,” haloed by an orchestra of spooky harmonics that includes a violin, viola, autoharp, sampler, loops and three different types of electric guitar.
It’s a lot to handle, but when consistently done right, the blend hovers beautifully between the jarring and the hypnotic, forming a foggy background that Kirk navigates with his vocals like a sopping barge.
“Hot Dreams” is a more ambitious project than Timber’s self-titled album, but it’s more careful and more effective than “Creep on Creepin’ On.”
“Beat the Drum Slowly,” as funeral opener as they come, drops dollops of glassy tone over a high-pitched sampler that sounds like a fly buzzing too close to your ear. A beat on a block of wood plods away rhythmically. But there’s a reason to this little symphonic carnival besides sheer fun with sound.
The music is trying to find its way into the fore — learning to walk, it cannot yet speak. It drawls a colorful baby-babble and rejoices in sound, which is exactly what Kirk, a prodigiously morbid infant, gives us.
“We heard crime soft and softly/a mystery mist, new sister shift/thinks recognize from television trims,” he coos.
The album delights in sounds, yet words never assume anything more than an ambiguous narrative significance. Contrary to expectations, this keeps the album fresh and protects it from becoming too crowded.
“Run from me darlin’/ run my good wife/ run from me darlin’/ you’d better run for your life,” Kirk sings in this delightful and rather chilly refrain on the penultimate track “Run From Me.”
Excluding Timber Timbre’s trademark sound, there’s much for the non-initiated listener to grab on to in “Hot Dreams.”
The titular track, another development in Kirk’s bizarre and eerie relationships with women, combines an R&B groove with a murder’s intentions. Kirk sounds like he’s cooing to his prey rather than to his lover, which makes the track outrageously fun, but also quite tender.
Content with this effect, the track lets it go on for three minutes and then opens the stage for a pair of ragged saxophones. The effect is at once bizarre and completely convincing.
Small bursts of unexpected color, and its leaps from a sound norm already twisted are what make Timber Timbre such a bold, dynamic sound-house.
This quintet has produced songs for your dreams as well as your nightmares, but its commitment to blending its individualized, cinematic atmosphere with the world of rock and blues are what make Timber Timbre an indispensable part of musical reality.
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