With two acclaimed full lengths under his belt, Jack Tatum (a.k.a. Wild Nothing) manages to progress further with each recording; the dreamy lo-fi of 2010’s Gemini giving way to the more beat heavy affair of 2013’s Nocturne, with few people batting an eyelid. In keeping with this preference of evolution and progression, his latest EP Empty Estate sees him push his own boundaries once again – moving on to almost unrecognisable plains and dabbling in a ludicrous amount of genres with interesting, albeit somewhat challenging, results.
Written and recorded over mere ten-day period in January, Tatum reportedly immersed himself in the work of Brian Eno and David Bowie for weeks beforehand. As a result, Empty Estate bears witness the mix of ambient, powerful pop music for which the Bowie/Eno team were famed. With its tracks awash with synthesised effects and drone, this is a far cry from any of Wild Nothing’s early material; a study in experimentation as opposed to formula, it’s a unique and emboldened new work.
Starting as it by no means wishes to continue, the EP begins with the more pop centred tracks “The Body in Rainfall” and “Ocean Repeating (Big-Eyed Girl)”: the former a pulsating synthesiser and piano-lead number, the latter mixing hazy electronic and math-pop expertly- even if the lyrical refrain of, “She’s my big-eyed girl” is somewhat grating: ‘big-eyed’?
It’s as this “***-Eyed Girl” ends that we start getting into the Bowie/Eno side of things. The rest of the record is laden with ambient noise, the results excellent after a few listens but would benefit from the level of production that its forebears enjoyed. To have this level of production expertise and recording expenses is obviously unrealistic for an artist at Wild Nothing’s level, but there are parts that need an extra push to get them from interesting to incredible.
Minor quibbles aside, this is an excellent effort from an artist whose material never fails to impress. The songs are of a high standard throughout- the throbbing, industrial beats of “Data World” and the dream-like instrumentals of “On Guyot” are particularly compelling and effective. It’s a record in which he departs from his previous LP with the same confidence as he departed from the one before that; his imagination, restlessness and creative zeal are fast becoming exceptional.
Release: 20th May 2013, Bella Union