Every so often, I suffer from a parasomnia disorder which is described variously as Night Terrors, Succubus Nightmares, or Sleep Paralysis. I think I prefer the middle description, although it rarely is as fun as the name suggests. Basically, it’s a state in which I wake up when my body still thinks it’s asleep but my subconscious is still dreaming. Basically, I can’t move, I am barely breathing, my eyes are open, and I am still dreaming so it’s all a bit scary and bewildering. I also dream quite lucidly, so you can probably imagine the fun I’m having while all this is going on.
The trick to sort this out apparently is the “Kill Bill” method where one has to concentrate like mad (and it is surprisingly hard work) to get the toes moving. Once this is sorted, the muscles and tendons tend to come back online and everything goes back to normal, although one is left wondering for about half an hour or so just what the bloody hell just happened. It’s exhilarating, disquieting and quite fun when one gets one’s mind back together in order to understand it.
And that’s what Timber Timbre are all about. Spooky, captivating, and just about keeping on the affectionate side of fear for the listener to want to experience it all over again.
Diving straight in, Bad Ritual picks up where Timber Timbre left off; low, heavily reverbed vocals over the barest minimum of a melody that in other hands would be quite cheery were it not for the atmosphere of voodoo gloom and group moaning. This is followed by the short musical interlude of Obelisk that puts the album firmly in its context – bass and drum providing ominous heartbeat as a gently discordant violin and otherworldly percussive noises join in, sounding like a very slowed-down and spooky version of Bernard Hermann’s theme from Psycho. Further instrumental oddness is provided by the snappily-titled Swamp Magic that evokes the other-world of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins so effectively in its “you’ve just gone down the wrong path” genial creepiness, with the funereal and somewhat eerily-titled Souvenirs bringing the album voicelessly and memorably to an end.
Southern Gothic is definitely the order of the day- the title track in any other hands would be a lovely 1950s tune on the boundary between blues and rock & roll, but the vocals and lyrics put it firmly in the graveyard rather than the lilac groves, and Black Water could have come from the Righteous Brothers if they ever overdid the absinthe.
It’s far from abstract spookiness though – there’s plenty of opportunity for dancing as the rhythms captured and darkened here of certainly of the toe-tapping variety, and Too Old to Die Young is positively jaunty in its performance, and Lonesome Hunter could be the end-of-evening slowdance if you ignore the lyrics that contain the lines “I’ve done some truly awful things, and you must be very terrified – for you have every reason to be frightened since you’ve been reading my mind”. Romantic stuff indeed. And before Do I Have Power goes all late-night New Orleans on us, the Yardbirds’ For Your Love can be occasionally spotted in the gumbo.
This is definitely an album best listened to at the latest part of the night, when sleep starts to fight to take hold and the little noises and shadows outside start to take on a more sinister edge than the fact that it’s probably the pigeons having it off on the roof again. Creep On Creepin’ On is an enjoyable, disorienting strange dream that has you getting up once it’s finished to make sure you have locked the doors properly.