PHOTOS BY: ERIC MOONEY
WORDS BY: DAVID VON BADER
The mark of a true artist is evolution in their expression, and a complete resignation to the behest of their muse at any cost. If an artist doesn’t progress in some way with each statement, they’re not really after anything, are they? Shoegaze songstress Tamaryn is one such artist that has recently shouldered the burden of drastic evolution and, while the resulting record is disparate enough from the singer’s previous efforts to throw some fans for a loop, we believe the new direction the singer has taken not only makes her new record, Cranekiss, a welcome breath of fresh air, but a beautiful, logical-- even ideal -- next step for Tamaryn.
Cranekiss’ departure is due in no small part to the dissolution of Tamaryn’s partnership with guitarist and songwriting partner, Rex Shelverton, who was responsible for sculpting the dreamy soundscapes of tape-delayed guitar that characterized previous releases. The singer has ostensibly braced fans for the impact of Cranekiss’ drastic sonic adjustments by bidding farewell to the material her partnership with Shelverton yielded (for the foreseeable future) with a scant three performances in California occurring right around the time the singer wrapped tracking Cranekiss with noteable new collaborators, producer/guitarist Shaun Durkin of the band Weekend and Jorge Elbrecht, known for his work with Ariel Pink and No Joy.
Gone are the languid, romantic, Slowdive-informed excursions that earned 2010’s The Waves and 2012’s Tender New Signs such acclaim. Those lush environments have been traded for something that pulls equally from ‘80s synthpop, the artsy end of post-punk, and a healthy dose of Curve’s influence, with any remaining hints of the singer’s shoegaze past acting more as inflection than language. Cranekiss sees Tamaryn step into the light of a pop star, becoming much more than a mysterious siren cooing away within the clouds of reverb. This new role is one the singer is well-suited to, and if the performance we witnessed at the show celebrating the release of Cranekiss at Manhattan’s Le Poisson Rouge last Friday is any indication, one she will undoubtedly continue to grow within.
The set retained the dark, ethereal vibes Tamaryn has always exuded, but the performance itself was a far more animated affair than anything we’ve witnessed previously from the singer. Tamaryn was ushered to the stage with a soundtrack of thumping krautrock bass (provided by the talented Jennie Vee, of Courtney Love fame) on a proverbial carpet of wavy guitar wash. The singer marched to the stage from a side room with the grace of a runway model and took command of the mic with a confidence that belied the reserved (though nonetheless graceful) stage persona we’ve come to expect of her.
Our fears that Cranekiss’ songs might be too complex in their arrangements to work well live -- between their heavy synths, organic and programmed drums parts, and various other atmospheric oddities -- were quickly dispelled as the band struck up the album’s lead banger, “Hands All Over Me”, which sounds like what might have happened had Kate Bush been involved in the writing process of Madonna’s first album. The mix was solid and all parts were represented, with a bit of extra guitar heft present courtesy of guitarist Richey Rose.
Some of the vocals on Cranekiss are extremely ambitious relative to anything else we’ve heard from Tamaryn, but she handled the falsettos of “Hands All Over me”, the Siouxsie Sioux-esque howls of “Softcore”, and even the soaring bits of “Last” with ease live and looked exceptionally comfortable doing so.
The set ended with some of the album’s darkest material, the moody “Fade Away Slow” and “Intruder (Waking You Up)”, and no additional words granted from performer and audience, retaining some of the poise and mystery which has always been a big part of Tamaryn’s persona.
This performance not only welcomed Cranekiss into the world, it also confirmed that Tamaryn has successfully completed her metamorphosis and is armed with everything necessary to become a very big deal.