Montreal, Canada quartet Wood stamp have been quietly perfecting their craft for over a decade now. The Quebec group has always been notoriously elusive, often categorized as âsomething between blues and folk,â but they’ve always been surprisingly original and perhaps more importantly, cinematic. This has been shown from their soundtrack work over the years, featuring on breaking Bad and The good woman, besides having a few Polaris Prize nominations to boot, but they never really succeeded outside of their native Canada.
Whether this is their sixth album Sincerely, Future Pollution The answer to that remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt the cold confidence that comes from the sound of Timber Timbre at this point. Trulyâ¦ is an odd record in that it looks like a relic from an earlier era, using 80s synths and drum machines, the industrialism of Nine Inch Nails’ debut on the album’s title track and structures and references to almost Lynchian songs, but his post is very relevant to 2017: “Sewers overflowed, as everyone was on Instagram“.
Despite its false pastiche, Trulyâ¦ is a angry album. This may in part seem like a novelty in his use of lounge jazz (âFloating Cathedralâ), but singer Taylor Kirk’s poetic, mostly spoken performance shows how our generation might let our societal decline happen. It’s fascinating how quickly North Americans reacted to America’s populist shift to the right – Father John Misty’s new album Pure comedy promises pretty much the same – as if there were a few musicians and performers who saw it coming a mile and a half away. Back then, we used punk music as an outlet to challenge these societal declines, but punk no longer has quite the same strength it once had in a broader public perspective.
Instead, appropriately enough, we have a post-modern take on a genre and style made famous during one of America’s most conservative eras, Reagan’s’ 80s. The beautifully sensual “Western Questions” sums up this rage masked as a tribute perfectly, as Kirk wonders how a hideous campaign could quite take place in Western society these days, eager to “Mud to enter”.
Not all on Trulyâ¦ is just as overtly angry as this song, but the entire album is bathed in a dark, seedy undertow in its revisionist synths and cinematic reach. The ‘Velvet Gloves & Spit’ opener, for example, is a beautifully touching piece, but as the title suggests, the beauty of a pair of Velvet Gloves alongside the spit image suggests that all is not not just in the world created here.
In fgeneral, Trulyâ¦ feels distinctly familiar, but it’s an uncomfortable familiarity, a warning that there is an obscurity that points to the past (thematically, anyway). Everything does not quite work; as fun as the deceptively optimistic âGriftingâ is, it’s a bit too close to David Bowie’s âFameâ to really go unnoticed. That said, it doesn’t seem out of place in this album’s sinister use of drifting touches and grooves over its 40 minutes of runtime, and for that matter, if Kirk longs for someone in his performance, Bowie is a pretty high benchmark from which to press.
Musically, Trulyâ¦ is full of interesting little flourishes and unexpected twists that, as mentioned above, are reminiscent of a David Lynch movie. Drummer Olivier Fairfield intentionally underestimates his hand, weaving in funky embellishments here and there without ever exaggerating the mark, while bass dutifully follows. ‘Moment’, for example, after a few minutes of rather breezy opening, suddenly becomes a guitar monster, however, it doesn’t take center stage on the rhythm section, which simply and grimly keeps its rhythm.
Kirk is an attractive singer and lyricist, posing puzzles before undermining them with their sad and inevitable conclusions; neither does its performance reach upper territory, instead inviting the listener to the dystopian world the group has created. ‘Sewer Blues’ is at the album’s dark heart and sees Kirk at his saddest, with the creepy chorus “I will come back to you / I will come back through you” channel his inner Nick Cave.
In the instrumental moments of the album, we have a vision of Ridley Scott Blade runner, a film that will take place in just two years and set in a dystopian metropolitan nightmare, much like the artwork for the album. There is surely a lot to be said over the next few years as we come to understand them in North American and hopefully British music in relation to the political advances in each region. Here, Canadians still too close for comfort look at themselves and just across the border, and predict an all-too-possible nightmare scenario. How prophetic it will remain to be seen, but this 2017 take on ’80s cinematic synth-pop is an unexpected joy in which to savor the looming political mud that approaches.