It's fair to say that any record containing songs with titles like 'Transcendent Blue', 'While You're Sleeping I'm Dreaming' and 'Heavenly Bodies' will immediately be painted into the shoegaze corner, regardless of what it sounds like. And in the case of Tender New Signs, the long-awaited second album from San Francisco's Tamaryn, such perceptions would be spot on. However, such genre recognition shouldn't be seen as dismissive. Instead, the duo have combined the knowledge and expertise garnered from their initial forays into songwriting with the obvious influences responsible for setting them on such a path in the first place to create an album that has more in common with the soothing atmospherics of Beach House than the all out assault of A Place To Bury Strangers.
Having initially got together with multi-instrumentalist and producer Rex John Shelverton in 2009, New Zealand born singer/songwriter Tamaryn has steadily honed her craft via a series of low budget, limited edition releases culminating in 2010's first long player The Waves. While hinting at the future possibilities for Tamaryn, it didn't quite fulfil the early promise set out by debut EP Led Astray, Washed Ashore. Nevertheless, having retreated to the drawing board for a good long while, it's clear to see Tender New Signs as being the result of a long, finely tuned and occasionally arduous process. Sure, comparisons with the likes of Slowdive, Cocteau Twins and The Cure remain; it would be difficult to envisage them not doing just by genre association alone. What is most striking about Tender New Signs though is that Tamaryn have placed their distinctive mark across the nine individual pieces that make up the album, in particular the seductive tones associated with Tamaryn's vocal.
Whether it be the quaint elegance and flowing, reverb heavy guitars of kaleidoscopic opener 'I'm Gone' or claustrophobic haze of album standout 'Heavenly Bodies', there's little here that disappoints. In fact, one of the main ingredients that makes Tamaryn such a special proposition is the way she uses her voice as an instrument rather than oratory mouthpiece. The majority of the lyrics here are inaudible, blending in with Shelverton's ethereal orchestrations in such a way that it makes no difference whether Tamaryn is singing about the weather or the price of milk down her local convenience store.
Veering in mood with consummate ease, the otherworldly strains of 'Prizma' sounding deceptively anthemic compared to the stripped down likes of 'Transcendent Blue', which involves little more than Tamaryn and a semi-acoustic guitar not in sync with the dense layered effects punctuating most of Tender New Signs. By the time 'Violet's In A Pool' brings the album to its natural conclusion, all repetitive loops via a haunting melody that could spawn its own sub-genre 'doomgaze', there's a tentative urge to return to the start almost immediately and repeat the listening process once more. And if there's any greater recommendation for giving Tender New Signs a spin then please, be my guest...
8Dom Gourlay's Score