Tamaryn The Waves Review

Album. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

San Francisco duo channels Cocteau Twins and MBV on their promising debut.

Alex Denney 2010

It’s not for everyone to deviate from the well-trodden path in this life, but there’s plenty to be said for treading it in style. The path marked 'shoegaze pop' could scarcely be more trodden if it was tarmacked and studded with cat's eyes, but San Francisco duo Tamaryn make a fine fist of it nonetheless, lacing their widescreen fuzz with nods to the currently voguish sounds of minimal wave.

Led by a former psychiatrist’s officer of the same name, Tamaryn’s debut album The Waves evokes a particularly barren kind of beauty. If Beach House’s shoegaze pop revisits its nominal holiday abode from the perspective of a lonely October morn, Tamaryn are that same house in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, desolate under skies grey with perpetual ashen snowfall.

As such the title-track is A Kiss in the Dreamhouse-era Banshees covering Slowdive, grinding bass going up against Rex John Shelverton’s guitar like ice cold surf on skin. Choirs of Winter recalls The Cure’s early 80s abstractedelica period – often claimed retrospectively as cold wave – and sounds like crystals on plane windows at 30,000ft. Again, it’s the chilliness that’s key.

Single Love Fade is more a haunted slice of Americana with its washy guitars and straightforwardly percussive pop feel, like Mazzy Star covering Stevie Nicks at her most aloof and otherworldly (Dawning's spooked vocals actually recall Nicks' classic Sarah). Meanwhile, Sandstone is like a ghost armada on slate grey horizons, and – since we’re on a faintly nautical theme – the three-note bassline of highlight Coral Flower slices through the nebulous arrangement like a boat hull through fog, Tamaryn’s siren-like whispers providing the poisonous pull.

If occasionally the My Bloody Valentine/Cocteau Twins/4AD reference points are in danger of coming off as rote, it’s the teasing affinities with cold wave – and latter-day acts indebted to its sound, like Zola Jesus or even the ‘witch house’ artists headed up by Salem – that gives Tamaryn’s music its alluring amoral bent and keeps them apart from more prosaically derivative FX pedal-botherers.

Of course, they’re no strangers to a well-turned tune either, as the palm-muted hooks of epic closer Mild Confusion neatly demonstrate, and Tamaryn’s continued success may well depend on their ability to pen material as striking as the best moments on this promising debut.

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