Tamaryn’s Glamorous, Staggering Synth-Pop Reaches A Peak On ‘Dreaming The Dark’

Pop Music Critic
03.21.19

Philip Cosores

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On Tamaryn’s fourth full-length album, Dreaming The Dark, an undercurrent of aggression crackles through nine songs of glittering noir-pop. Those familiar with the previous work of the Los Angeles-based musician, born Tamaryn Brown, will sense a shift in her sound and tone on this album, toward a darker, harder, and more assertive expression. After several years of working with former collaborator, Rex John Shelverton, within a vocalist and guitar player dynamic, Tamaryn decided to shift instrumentation and production for her latest release.

“A lot of people started to see the project as a band called Tamaryn, people didn’t even know it was my name,” she explained to me over tea in Beachwood Canyon recently. “I really liked that and leaned into it because it felt unlikely to pull that off at the time. When you’re a female musician, you come out and people will be like, ‘singer, songwriter, girl, goth, musician…’ But this felt like, ‘Oh, no, this is a band. Like, My Bloody Valentine!”

Still, after a couple of years off following her 2015 release, Cranekiss, she was ready to move in a new sonic direction. Shelverton and Tamaryn very amicably parted ways for Dreaming The Dark — “Rex and I are still good friends, we go camping, and he’s so proud of me and supportive,” she offers — and began to work extensively with Jorge Elbrecht (Violens / Lansing-Dreiden) instead.

The result is a stunning, layered song cycle that spotlights her molten voice like never before, and pushes Tamaryn to the forefront of a wave of modern artists repurposing the signifiers of ’80s pop for their own ends. Even in the beginning of her career, when she was leaning more into a gauzy, dream pop sound, there was a bite in her vocals, an unshakeable power that came through even on the wispiest of melodies. That element is weaponized here, to face down the darkness in the songs, and bring some of the heavier content full circle in a personal way that Tamaryn describes as “prophetic.”

After meeting up on a rainy day in Los Angeles earlier in the month to talk about the shift in tone and sound for her latest album, we also got into how Jungian archetypes and elements of the Tarot fit into her new videos, and her shift in thinking toward creating art for its own sake, regardless of audience. Read a condensed, edited version of our conversation below.

Visual work is obviously such a huge part of your artistic sensibility, especially leading off the album with “Fits Of Rage” and the subsequent video, which you self-directed. Why did you want to lead out with that one? From my perspective, the emotion in that song feels like something a lot of people can get behind right now.

There are a few reasons why… the first is more a musical reason, that it’s the biggest departure or the most unexpected song. It definitely has hip-hop influences, I was listening to a lot of Lil Peep and stuff like that when I wrote it. I’m not trying to sound like those artists, but there’s a subliminal thing in there. So, musically it was different, and the first song you put out ends up making the biggest impact, so I thought I’d put something out to grab attention. As far as the emotion of the song, it’s the first one I’ve ever yelled or been close to screaming on, which has been cool for me, and different. In the past, I was trying to kind of be more textural in the music, even if the emotions are similar throughout all the albums. There’s this heavy emotion that connects all the albums, even though the songwriting is changing. But I think probably this record is the most direct emotionally.

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