Review: Wild Nothing – Empty Estate

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Jack Tatum has been a busy man since the release of the last Wild Nothing album; an exhaustive tour of Europe was followed by a brief break and then a stint of recording, the fruits of which is the Empty Estate EP.

From the first few beats of A Body In Rainfall, the first track on this seven-track EP, it’s pretty clear that Wild Nothing mean business with Empty Estate. It’s certainly a departure from the hazy dream pop of last year’s Nocturn and their 2010 debut lowfi, Gemini. In fact, Tatum seems to be moving, perhaps inevitably, further from the lowfi DIY aesthetic of his early recordings with each release.

Empty Estate was recorded in New York by Al Carlson – whose credit’s include Yeahsayer and Clinic – during a ten day period in January. And you can really hear Carlson’s influence throughout; from the 80′s sounding drum and bass sounds and patterns, through the programming, the big cool synths, and reverb-laden vocals to the saxophone solo he plays in hooky lead single, A Dancing Shell.

This is a move for Jack Tatum and Wild Nothing toward a more commercially popular sound, but you can’t help wondering whether they’ve arrived too late to catch a boat that MGMT, Yeahsayer, M83 and a whole crew of others sailed off in some time ago.

There are moments here that are really enjoyable in isolation; lead single, A Dancing Shell, being the most obvious but not the only one. As an album though, it just feels just a little bit like it’s trying a bit too hard to tick all the ‘cool’ boxes: riffy pop song – A Body In Rainfall – check.  A bit of Afro-beat rhythm, 80s bass lines  and reverby guitar – Ocean Repeating – check. Trendy ambient instrumental – On Guyout – check. A nod to existing dans – Ride – check. Bring back Top of the Pops radio-friendly hit – A Dancing Shell – check.

Perhaps others will praise the diversity of the pieces of music that make up Empty Estate. And perhaps they’re right to. But for me it leaves the EP lacking cohesion and maybe even authenticity.

Nathan Fisher