Album Review: Tamaryn, Cranekiss

Cranekiss, Tamaryn (Mexican Summer)

Release Date: August 27, 2015

Tamaryn’s flower blossoms on third LP Cranekiss, the dense layers of guitar that sometimes shrouded her voice on previous releases Tender New Signs and The Waves spreading out and falling away to reveal a more delicious gradient of textures than ever before. The “silver haze” glazing the limited edition vinyl release of the album’s title track is an apt image for the entire album, which is dusted with swooning synths, hand claps, pedal effects and samples.

Produced with Shaun Durkan (Weekend) and Jorge Elbrecht (Violens, Ariel Pink), Cranekiss is the New Zealand native’s first collaboration with this team. The gossamer title track shows off Tamaryn’s voice in four colors –  one after the other winds on top of a repetitive bass line and ebbing and flowing synthesizers, which are surprisingly sparse for all their sparkle. The vocals in the ecstatic vortex of “Hands All Over Me” call to mind pre-Music Madonna, unashamed in their lust and luster. “Do everything that I like,” she sings, reveling in her own desire but not surrendering an inch of herself. “I’m never gonna change, so just keep that in mind.” If the world has any justice at all, it will soon be the soundtrack to more getting-ready montages than the one that takes place in my own bathroom.

Languid “Last,” the most recent single, briefly enters the uncanny valley in its autotuned highs, but those moments can’t wholly erase the enveloping magic of Tamaryn’s unprocessed, husky lows. The distortion of “Intruder (Waking You Up)” and lean, muscular bass of “Softcore”  recall the Cure at their most monochromatic, though Robert Smith probably never trawled porn sites looking for orgasms to sample as Tamaryn did.

“Fade Away Slow” and “Sugar Fix” are detached from the vital current, tasting more like cotton candy than marzipan, fluffing notes that could have been solid. However, “Collection” strikes the balance, with wiry synth latticework to balance out the sweetness and a delicate pulse pushing the dreamy machine forward.

Indecipherable lyrics, gauzy layers, breathy and angelic vocals – yes, the Cocteau Twins comparisons are too easy. However, while Steve Wright’s mock critic may have raved about Elizabeth Fraser’s “sonic cathedrals,” Tamaryn has created something not quite as grand and immovable: a sonic taxicab, perhaps, flying through a flashing late-night city with few red lights in sight.
Essential Tracks: “Cranekiss,” “Hands All Over Me,” “Softcore”

Vulnicura

There are no easy crowd songs on Vulnicura. No wow-bam a la “It’s Oh So Quiet,” no “Army of Me”-esque screaming eagles, nothing to sing along to or grasp hold of. There is nothing to dance to on Vulnicura. Seventh cut “Atom Dance” is silvery and tenuous with nervous beats by Arca bubbling under the surface and an a cappella section by Antony Hegarty. “Dance! Dance!” Hegarty exhorts, possibly the most optimistic lyric thus far on the album. It’s in 5/4, and anyone who can dance to it has my deepest respect. 

Vulnicura is a breakup album. In 2013, Bjork ended her twelve-year relationship with visual artist Matthew Barney, who is the father of her daughter Isadora. The album is a chronological array of Bjork’s songs about the end of the partnership – the loss of intimacy, the sudden absence of a love that had become familiar, the first flashes of hope in the haze of uncertainty. Shifting, grainy percussion, vocal lines swirling around each other, nightmarish yelps and meandering, sometimes disconnected threads of words all convey the pain and confusion of when normal dissolves into nothing.