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The Waves Ross Pounds , November 8th, 2010 06:06

It's difficult not to greet an album like Tamaryn's debut The Waves with a bit of an eye roll. Another band paying their dues to the likes of Cocteau Twins, Spacemen 3, and Galaxie 500, words like 'ethereal' and 'icy' seemed to have been rolled out in every review, hurdles laid down before they've even started running. It's bound to be tagged a shoegaze album, whether the band like it or not, and it's easy to see why. Theirs is a sound packed with low, rumbling bass and squalling guitar, the songs deliberately paced and sitting under a vocal which pulls off the trick of sounding both mildly disinterested and completely arena-ready at once. It's an album which could quite easily have come out on 4AD sometime in the late 1980s instead of the excellent Mexican Summer label in the early autumn of 2010.

It's a credit to the band, then, that, on the whole, they transcend these pitfalls, avoiding gaudy pastiche and siphoning their obvious influences into something intriguing and well-worth listening to, if not a little derivative.

The thing that strikes one immediately on listening to the album, from the opening title track onwards, is its vastness: Tamaryn are certainly not a band lacking in either scope or ambition. The tracks are soaked in a blanket of reverb, lending itself to a sound so cavernous that one could imagine it being played from the cliff tops, filling the endless space in front it. It's remarkable that two people (the band is Tamaryn herself, a former psychiatrist's officer, and Rex John Shelverton) could conjure such an enormous sound. The Waves, on initial listening, could quite easily be the work of a well-rehearsed, decade old five-piece set up such is its grandeur – rolling, barrelling drums, grey-sky guitar, empty spaces filled with shards of sound (the children's voices on the excellent, Horrors-esque 'Sandstone', for example).

Tamaryn's vocals, husky and seductive, are as alluring as the guitars are blown-out and fractured, the two combining beautifully to create an aural haze, something akin to an early-morning mist floating serenely above a wind-whipped ocean. It's not hard to see Tamaryn as the siren on the rocks, luring awestruck men to an early grave.

It's not all pomp and bluster, though. The likes of 'Haze Interior' and 'Choirs of Winter' show a band adept at the slow jam too. They still simmer as the rest of the tracks do, but there's a change of pace that the duo engineer excellently. Both tracks call to mind memories of decaying film and half-burnt letters, reaching back into a past that can never again be visited fully. 'Haze Interior', particularly, owes a debt to the likes of Brian Eno and Stars of the Lid, the murky ambience framing Tamaryn's yearning vocal perfectly. It's lovely stuff, and a hint of where the band might perhaps go in the future. The album may only be nine tracks long, but there's a lot of promise packed into what becomes a frustratingly short running time.

No-one's saying what Tamaryn are doing is original. In fact, they tick all the right clichés. Their influences, constantly namedropped in interviews, are obvious from a million miles away. The image they present is so tailored to the music that it feels as if it has been created for them. The song titles ('Cascades', 'Love Fade') are so redolent of their peers that it wasn't exactly a stretch to imagine what they'd sound like. But there's a crucial point to be made. The Waves may not be a particularly original album, but it is a startlingly well-executed one, a debut brimming with promise and an assurance that escapes many bands ten years their senior. It's a statement of intent, an intriguing prologue for what's surely to come later. It's an album full of confidence, and one obviously made with care. It doesn't escape its influences, sure, but who'd want to when the result is this promising? Originality is overrated anyway.