Tamaryn TamarynTender New Signs
Since they appeared on the scene four years ago, Tamaryn have had every label ending in “gaze” hung on them. Although “skygaze” sounds good for defining their sound, always looking skyward, aspiring to rise up above the clouds, their music has echoes of your basic ordinary shoegaze, especially the kind that was made in the early 90s. Compared with everyone from Cranes to My Bloody Valentine, including Slowdive and Siouxsie Sioux (their vocalist shares an undisguised love for darkness with the former leader of The Banshees), the San Francisco duo started to receive attention in 2009 with singles spread out over a variety of labels such as always-on-the-lookout True Panther Sounds. They finally landed at Mexican Summer to do their debut album, “The Waves”, in 2010, which is to say, right when the shogazer revival was at its peak. The nine songs on that album distanced themselves from the darker sound featured in their earliest productions, to create songs that shifted towards the heady hypnosis of dream-pop. Two years later, it’s likely that many have forgotten them because it didn’t make much noise, although their LP was a heady little thing (especially that “Mild Confusion”, which is the best thing to come out of the genre in recent years). One year later, Tamaryn, without her other half, producer Rex John Shelverton (member of The Audience and Portraits Of Past), joined Dee Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls to form Les Demoniaques, a short-lived group that for the moment has only left us a single in the form of a cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Teenage Lust”.
Their new album, “Tender New Signs”, shows them once again back at the label that they grew up with, Mexican Summer. A work in which New Zealander Tamaryn and Shelverton have once again chosen to produce themselves, something unusual for second albums. The means at their disposal were the same, but they have managed to refine their sound together, cleaning it up without losing its essence. The label has described this new work as “a daring step ahead in structure and form”. The “daring” part is debateable, because most of this work continues in the same vein as before; in fact, it has the same number of songs and practically the same duration, but what no one can deny is that their production skills have improved over these recent years. From the first piece, “I’m Gone”, one can tell that the mix is very important here. Jangling guitar riffs with a loud, heavy dose of reverb, syncopated percussion that almost borders on Krautrock and Tamaryn’s delicate, always hypnotic voice.
Many song titles speak for themselves, such as “While You’re Sleeping, I’m Dreaming”, sort of the perfect name for a dream-pop number. Here they gain strength, create violent whirlwinds of sound, approaching that darkness that they had left behind years ago. The same thing happens with “Heavenly Bodies”, which is softer, but very evocative and the perfect example of what skygaze can be. The sequencing is also praiseworthy, as just when it seems that everything is going to sound the same, after 15 minutes, they slip in the meditative, slightly noisy ballad “No Exits”, with a hell of a “Souvlaki” flavour. After two more conventional cuts, but with some outstanding guitar lines (the rather classic “Prizma” and “The Garden”, one of the best examples of how the LP is rife with floral images), “Tender New Signs” turns into the home stretch with some of the most sombre pieces that the duo has recorded. The percussion of “Afterlight” owes a great deal to The Cure and the closing, “Violet’s In A Pool”, is as powerful and spellbinding as their debut’s.
The Californians have come up with a very cohesive, kaleidoscopic, slightly psychedelic album where everything flows very naturally, as if the nine songs were all really one. It all sounds fabulous, although a bit homogenous, and the influences are as clear as the sound. They didn’t need to entirely reinvent themselves to catch our attention again. Now, they should indeed be with us forever.