Music review: Tamaryn’s “Dreaming the Dark”- a pleasing collection of dream pop and darker explorations

credit Gina Canavan tamaryn
credit: Gina Canavan

I randomly discovered New Zealand born Tamaryn on a generated playlist on some music streaming service, probably based on a shoegaze/dream pop search. It was 2012 and the song was ‘Love Fade’, two years after its album “The Waves” was released. It was a balancing dose of resounding jangly guitar riffs and seraphic synths pulled down by the weight of its melancholy.  Tamaryn‘s voice solemnly teetered a line between whispering innocence and raspy savor-faire. I imagined a small array of a traveling band standing together, slowly gazing the ground in unison as the lyrics sing “Fade, love fade, as the sun descends”, with shimmering sunlight peeking through its crevices.  I was committed.  Anyhow, almost seven years have passed since then.  With each album afterward (2012’s “Tender New Signs” and 2015’s “Cranekiss”), Tamaryn has pivoted from her debut, subtle in some ways and luminous in others. Her fourth album and newest release “Dreaming the Dark” is the epitome of such direction.  With the former, she has slowly emerged from the consonant concoction and bliss of guitar and synths echoing each other, but like loungewear, still can’t really let it go, even finding ways to inject life without it inherently sharing her space. And with the latter, she powers through, remnants of old mostly obscured under synth-pop and 80s industrial influences.  Produced and co-written by Jorge Elbrecht (Violens, Ariel Pink), the result (when they gel) is a blossoming blend of crystalline Cocteau Twins’ inspired cohesion and dark synth-pop experiments.

The songs that stood out most on this album were the ones with the repeat-worthy hooks – tracks like ‘Fits of Rage’, ‘Angels of Sweat’, ‘Terrified’ and arguably a potential pop hit in ‘Path to Love’ with its lyrics “I’m choosing a path that leads to love, I’m taking what’s mine and giving it up.”  I also liked the heavier ‘Dreaming the Dark’ and another heavier track ‘Paranoia IV’. With these tracks, I imagine her voice as a small plane darting in escape mode, at one point dodging colliding steel and distorted beats and slipping through doom.  In contrast, ‘the Jealous Kind’ while it does suggest and even flash an ominous tone, with its circus-type feel, is probably the most surprising track – like a mixture of Strawberry Switchblade, Johnny Marr and Stock Aitken & Waterman.

Otherwise, if there’s anything I’d point out that could’ve worked out better is ‘Victim Complex’. It just came across as if there was some push for the Depeche Mode/People Are People drum sound for no real sake. I might change my mind.  Overall, “Dreaming the Dark” is a fine release of close influences, with perimeters ranging from Robin Guthrie-like ambient guitars on one end to a mixture of darker synth-pop settling around the middle and industrial suggestions on the other end.  While not a total departure from its beginnings – actually ‘You’re Adored’  could also resemble a nice connection to the past – “Dreaming the Dark” doesn’t hesitate in its exploration.

“Dreaming the Dark” will be available for release March 22nd.

Until then, the third song from the newest album was released yesterday.  Its called “Path to Love” and it’s below.  Edit – it was originally uploaded as age-restricted but has been removed from that status since.