Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tamaryn- The Waves (2010)

Recommended if you like: The Soft Moon, Lower Dens, My Bloody Valentine, Zola Jesus, Grouper, Warpaint, Cocteau Twins

November of this year will mark the 20-year anniversary of My Bloody Valentine’s landmark album Loveless, a record that is perhaps the finest representation of the shoegaze genre. The album’s influence can be heard today, as strong as ever, in the music of bands like A Sunny Day In Glasgow, A Place to Bury Strangers and M83. Bands like the aforementioned ones have taken the genre in new directions, incorporating synth, pop, ambient and even metal and punk influences into the delicate but loud music of the genre’s founders. However, if you are looking for so true to the style of Loveless that it might even be mistaken for a new My Bloody Valentine album, look no further than The Waves, the debut LP from New Zealand singer Tamaryn.

On The Waves, Tamaryn is joined by guitarist and producer Rex John Shelverton, formerly of Portraits of Past. Though The Waves is meant to showcase Tamaryn’s beautiful, ethereal voice, it would be remiss not to shower Shelverton with praise for his fantastic instrumental work. The title track, the album’s first track, begins with thunderous distorted guitars and buzzing bass before exploding into a captivating mix of Tamaryn’s smoky vocals and dissonant, twinkling guitars. Shelverton’s beautiful guitars are perfectly mixed, weaving in and out of the vocal lines, never stealing the spotlight but remaining captivating in their own right. The second track, “Choirs of Winters,” exhibits the duo’s dynamic variability, taking a decidedly slower feel. Shelverton’s watery guitars slowly churn behind Tamaryn’s softer, more intimate vocals, double tracked to give them an even richer feel. Though the most obvious comparison is still My Bloody Valentine, the mix of Tamaryn’s guttural voice with droning guitars calls to mind other shoegaze revivalists and female fronted groups like Lower Dens, Grouper, Zola Jesus and Glasser.

“Sandstone” is the most unashamed MBV track on the album, built around rumbling bass lines, tremolo guitars and a shimmering guitar loop. “Dawning” might be the most traditional pop song on the album, with Tamaryn’s vocal melodies taking a commanding focus, noticeably more confident than on any other song. The album closes with “Mild Confusion,” arguably the finest track, which builds on a stormy, sliding bass line, dual snare hits and warbling guitars.

The Waves will certainly not be for everyone. Some may write off its unashamed MBV imitations as unoriginal or stale. Tamaryn’s voice could come across as uninspired, her smoky drawl surely prefers subtlety to any grandiose melodies. And though the songs do have variation, the instrumental side of the album definitely doesn’t stray far from Shelverton’s distinct sparkling and fuzzed out guitar lines. But Loveless wasn’t really an album of much variation either. Shoegaze as a genre is so unique sounding that it often doesn’t even really require that much stylistic variation. On The Waves, Tamaryn and Shelverton create expansive sonic landscapes worthy of the album’s title and richly textured cover art. Drenched in reverb, Shelverton’s pierce the deepest corners of the mind, creeping slowly and washing over you in waves. Tamaryn’s voice is refuses to be ignored; whether it be her ghostly whispers or gothy bellows. Most importantly, The Waves challenges and overcomes the pitfalls found on many albums that are meant to showcase the vocalist. Rather than existing as an afterthought or sleepy background, Shelverton’s instrumental arrangements command the same amount attention as Tamaryn’s vocals. 20 years later, shoegaze is alive and well, carried by the torchbearers of a new generation. The Waves exists as a rich celebration of the album that changed indie music forever, but also as truly great vocalist showcase album.

1. The Waves
2. Choirs of Winter
3. Love Fade
4. Haze Interior
5. Sandstone
6. Coral Flower
7. Dawning
8. Cascades
9. Mild Confusion

Buy The Waves from Mexican Summer

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