The visual and sonorous arts capture something of the vibratory structure of matter itself; they extract colour, rhythm, movement from chaos in order to slow down and delimit within them a territory that is now capable of undergoing a reshaping and a new harmonics that will give it independence, a plane of stabilisation on which to sustain itself.
– Elizabeth Grosz
The covers of classic shoegaze albums — think Loveless or Heaven or Las Vegas — evoke a sensation of smeared light and color. It’s a process that is a one-to-one visual reflection of the music: a smearing of guitars, keyboards, and vocals; a wall of sound that becomes a 3D wave or perhaps Pin Art music; a thousand defined edges smoothing themselves out in the “roar of the crowd.” Tamaryn’s Tender New Signs is very much in line with this aesthetic, both in the abstracted blossoms that adorn the cover and in titles like “Heavenly Bodies” or “Transcendent Blue.”
This sensibility has something to do with cosmic forces and their manifestation — a psychedelic blacklight, but with the details under gauze. As in a Nancy Rexroth photo, these forces are captured in a frame and given a sense of nostalgia and of the dream; but at the same time, the imprecision of the image captures the fact that they are forces, not objects. The music makes manifest sound as waves, becoming a nexus point between the impersonality and strength of forces, and the experience of embodiment: specifically, the emotions (time-stretched bliss, mitigated melancholy) we associate with the shoegaze sound. The alternation between these equally characteristic moods could be the result of the swerve, the possibility of difference that resists complete determinacy. Elizabeth Grosz’s characterization (following Deleuze) captures the mood: chaotic cosmological forces (space, time, materiality) allow a productive explosion that extracts not usefulness, but an intensity that impacts on the nervous system and increases sensation.
Tamaryn’s explosion, however, is one that happens in slow motion — the aftermath of the Big Bang that we all inhabit, the slow and indirectly perceived expansion of the universe rather than a single point of energy and release. And in the retro-debt owed by Tender New Signs to classic shoegaze, a debt that is marked, we could also see a gentle expansion from a seminal origin point. It’s the strung-out dreaminess of Slowdive meets the distorted guitars of My Bloody Valentine, with vocals equal parts Siouxsie and Elizabeth Fraser, and an ever-so-slight gothic tinge reminiscent of Cranes.
But what is the relationship to Tamaryn’s own point of origin and subsequent trajectory? Tender New Signs does not manifest the insistent post-punk rhythms of the Led Astray Washed Ashore EP (2011), but it’s not a huge departure from 2010 debut The Waves, though its sound is less chiming and more grinding (in a good way), the ethereality present only in vocals rather than in general suffusion, the darkness lingering at the edges palpable where before it was merely hinted at. As visible light is blurred to the point of effacement, it absorbs what is around it — photons — and thus, being in the territory of art, fades to black.