Wild Nothing: Life of Pause

Scott Wallace
22nd Feb 2016

Like many one-person music projects, Wild Nothing started in a bedroom. Jack Tatum's 2010 debut record under the name Wild Nothing, Gemini, was a gorgeous slice of shimmering and mercurial bedroom-recorded pop that created romance from a sense of isolation, solitude and introspection. Now on this third record, Tatum is well acquainted with an actual recording studio. But, as this album proves, even with fancy new digs he's still a solitary worker.

Life of Pause follows 2012's Nocturne and further streamlines its hazy folk-tinged indie-rock sound into sleek and seductive 80's-influenced pop. With its gentle melodies and sophisticated arrangements, the record recalls Elvis Costello's New Wave classic Imperial Bedroom, showing a refined ear for hooks and structure that sets Tatum apart from other indie singer-songwriters.

From the flurries of tuned percussion that open the album on "Reichpop" - a tribute to legendary minimalist composer Steve Reich and his immortal Music for 18 Musicians - there is a lushness and directness to the album that sets it apart from Wild Nothing's previous work. Highlights like the strutting, sultry "Lady Blue" and the instantly engaging title track (even before the wonderful chorus hits) are synthesiser spangled delights.

The results can be mixed when Tatum branches out, as on the accelerated New Wave of "Japanese Alice," where a faceless arrangement and tired lyrics gets in the way of what is actually one of the record's best melodies. Later on, the single "To Know You" is overlong and feels bloated, with its churning guitars and spacey synthesisers sitting uncomfortably alongside the rest of the tracks on the record.

But even with a marked shift in sound for Wild Nothing, this is still clearly the work of the same artist. The glimmering "Alien," with its swells of keyboards and delicate guitar accompaniment is a brilliant portrayal of emotional disconnection, featuring an evocative vocal from Tatum. The three-song run from the syrupy waltz "Adore" to the nocturnal "Whenever I" is among the best music Wild Nothing has ever released, full of brilliant production flourishes that make for fascinating and catchy songs.

Life of Pause could have been more consistent, and perhaps trimmed slightly from its fifty-minute running time, but in its best moments this ornate and lovingly crafted record is very special. Not one to lean on clichés or rest on the sound with which he made his name, Wild Nothing has pushed into exciting and ambitious territory that transcends its retro leanings and actually feels fresh, sharp, and immediate.

Life of Pause is out now on CD, vinyl and digital formats.