Press play on The Waves – The debut album from Tamaryn and her long-time collaborator Rex John Shelverton – and surges of reverb drenched, hazy guitar immediately wash over you. The low vocals come in, commanding you to “Come down to the surface”, and you are dragged into the elemental world of the album, from which you will not emerge for the next thirty-seven and a half minutes.
The geographical move for Tamaryn away from New York and into San Francisco has represented a significant move upwards in mood from her previous EPs. Some tracks here are dark, yes: the ominous vocals and distorted bass on ‘Mild Confusion’ certainly feels like something coming from a very menacing place, but tracks like ‘Choirs of Winter’ and ‘Coral Flower’ float slowly and deliberately around the ears with an uplifting, confident feel, Tamaryn’s feminine voice keeping it’s husk, but feeling much brighter.
Really though, it’s when the tempos get faster that the music comes into it’s own: ‘Sandstone’ drives forward with a simple but satisfying beat that is lacking in many of the other songs, making it something of a standout track. The vocals are soft and almost ethereal, contrasting superbly with the thick mist of Shelverton’s guitar, and keeping in focus the atmospheric force that runs right thorough the nine songs.
Overall the sound of the album is resonant and huge, majestic in it’s unhurried detail, but never seems too much (maybe helped by it’s short running time) and it washes around you just as the title of the album suggests it will. There is though one complaint that, for me, brings the album down slightly, and that is the slightly clumsy drumming that permeates many of the songs. Although in some of the more up-tempo songs it adds to the forceful effect, more often than not it feels awkward and almost unnecessary – no where near as well thought out as the rest of the album.
But this is a very minor complaint, as on balance, The Waves is a purposeful and direct debut that knows exactly what it is, and what it wants to be. It is short, but never wants to be longer, and can feel very dark, but always has uplifting undertones not far below the surface. Let it wash over you, and immerse yourself for a while, but don’t worry, you won’t be gone long.