Timbre is a key aspect of musical practice and aesthetics. Artists use instrumentation, vocal technique, and production technology to create precise tone colours; listeners are able to identify genres, artists and connotations through timbre. However, critical assessment of its ephemeral musical agency is scarce. This article develops a theory of timbre. Goth music, which privileges tone colour in production, performance, and aesthetic, is a case in point for the ungraspable agency of this musical parameter. Timbral analyses of two goth tracks, Veil of Light's ‘Cold skin’ and Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows's ‘Dreamland’, will assess tone colour's relation to identity and difference (Walser), signification and corporeality (Barthes, Ihde), and the surplus of meaning and embodiment (Dolar). The article will argue that timbral aesthetics are characterised by the paradox of present absence: it indicates corporeality and meaning but simultaneously exceeds both. Tangible but also disembodied, immersive but also meaningless, it is no wonder that goth exploits timbre's dark agency.