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Tamaryn Emerges from the Dark: An Interview with the Pop Virtuoso
culture  |  Mar 19, 2019

Tamaryn Emerges from the Dark: An Interview with the Pop Virtuoso

The LA-based singer discusses the inspirations and challenges behind “Dreaming in the Dark,” her heaviest and most "confrontational" album yet.

The LA-based singer discusses the inspirations and challenges behind “Dreaming in the Dark,” her heaviest and most "confrontational" album yet.

Lead photo by Gina Canavan, courtesy of DERO Arcade

Since Tamaryn first began picking up buzz on late-aughts music blogs, the immediate appeal and connecting thread in her music has been textural beauty. Her 2010 debut, The Waves, was awash in shoegaze guitar tones and layers of reverb, delay, and echo that shoehorned neatly with the concurrent chillwave movement. Gradually, she leaned into more dynamic, clearer-sounding territory, but if anything, that accentuated the music’s lushness even more. 

This all culminated on her third (and until this week, most recent) album 2015’s Cranekiss. It was Tamaryn’s first with collaborators Shaun Durkan of Bay Area shoegazers Weekend and producer/multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Jorge Elbrecht, whose numerous credits include work with Ariel Pink, Japanese Breakfast, Chairlift, and Gang Gang Dance. Coming from a more electronic-based dream-pop world, Cranekiss cast Tamaryn’s songwriting gifts in sharper focus than ever, while still retaining her calling card of deliciously rich tones.

It’s been three-and-a-half years since Cranekiss — the longest gap yet between Tamaryn albums — and fittingly, her latest offering puts some clear distance between her and her older work. Dreaming The Dark (out Friday via DERO Arcade) is colder, darker, and more confrontational than Tamaryn’s ever sounded. It may still nod to very ‘80s/early ‘90s source material, but think early Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode’s more gothic stuff, and pre-Pixies 4AD releases, rather than the era’s more sugary synthpop. Elbrecht is still onboard, and he’s joined by Jordan Collins, a young, relatively unknown, Las Vegas-based producer/musician who Tamaryn met on Instagram.

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Photo by Gina Canavan, courtesy of DERO Arcade

Early on in her career, Tamaryn tended to bury her voice in the mix, using it more as another instrument than as the anchor of her music. But from Dreaming The Dark’s first chorus, it’s clear that her pipes are now the focal point. "Embrace your desire," she sings on “Angels Of Sweat,” dragging out "desire" and allowing her high register to soar to house music diva heights worthy of Larry Levan's Garage. “Live so many lives, it’s already night,” she croons over a jagged, arpeggiating synth line.

Her lyrics are empowered, sexual, personal — a far cry from the artsy-er abstractions of The Waves bangers like “Love Fade.” Dreaming The Dark runs a considerable gamut of emotions, from the pissed-off, self-flagellating “Fits Of Rage” to “You’re Adored,” a love song dedicated to Tamaryn’s dog, so the main throughline isn’t so much thematic as it is visceral and immediate. Tamaryn’s no longer letting her gorgeous sonic backdrops do the heavy lifting — she’s out in front, holding everything up with powerful, unflinching vocal performances. 

MERRY JANE caught up with Tamaryn while she was in the midst of cleaning her A-frame house — which she says “looks like a Disney witch’s cottage” — in Silver Lake, LA. We spoke about the long gap between albums, the source of Dreaming The Dark’s darkness, her creative process, and using music as therapy. 

patrick_lyons

Patrick Lyons is a music writer based in Portland who is equally enthralled by black metal and Southern rap-- catch him making maddeningly eclectic choices on the aux cord.

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