Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Wild Nothing weaves neon surface gloss with dream-pop panache on fifth album Hold


Release date: 27 October 2023
Wild Nothing Hold cover
27 October 2023, 09:00 Written by Christopher Hamilton-Peach

Twinning elusive dream-pop with synth sheen, Jack Tatum’s Wild Nothing universe darts between the quantifiable dimension of 80s pop and half-hidden worlds steeped in their own mythos.

Where Indigo mined a rich vein of sophisti-pop opulence, Tatum emerges five years down the line at a familiar sonic intersection between reality and dreamscape, with the newfound experience of parenting and the challenges of lockdown brought to bear. The heady, foggily lensed prism of Gemini and Nocturne, which guaranteed the Virginia-based artist’s niche at the onset of the chillwave heyday, is there in its warm embrace but takes second billing to more overt post-vaporwave strains of nostalgia. Hold embraces a brasher 80s aesthetic in this tradition, confidence that guides Tatum to house-veering city pop ground via Hatchie-featuring lead single “Headlights On” and the power-suited, shoulder pad-heavy charisma of “Suburban Solutions”, breathing in self-aware pastel geometrics and false sloganising schmalz: “We love real people / Real salt of the earth / Now sign on the dotted line darling”.

Wild Nothing’s fifth LP is a logical progression, electro-pop bolshiness bubbled underneath earlier records waiting to be fully liberated - found in striking form on his latest. Tatum adopts this with cautious effect, bridging the avant-garde with accessible gloss in an exchange that avoids feeling overly laboured but rather stands as homage to the halfway prog-pop of his antecedents. The haunting throwback energy of “Presidio” is hewn close in this respect, fretless bass warbling in a fashion recalling Never for Ever-era Kate Bush, while the mid-80s ambience of Tangerine Dream and Steve Roach prevails on “Prima”, neon layers that resurrect the synth saturation of Empty Estate.

The more muted melancholia signposting Tatum’s earlier work dials in to satisfy long-term fans, while a broader range enjoys room to play. Talk Talk’s radio-friendly new wave era holds sway as well as echoes of late-00s lo-fi indie on tracks such as “Dial Tone” and “Alex”. The baroque-etched stretch of Life of Pause elsewhere ebbs at the edges via “Histrion”, while Peter Gabriel and the Blue Nile are seen as vectors of influence on “Pulling Down the Moon (Before You)”.

Self-produced and mixed by Caroline Polachek-collaborator Geoff Swann, Tatum seems in his element on Hold, increasing creative control that hinges between the diptych of electro-pop bravado and an ethereal grip at its zenith on Nocturne. Despite an opening track that vaults deceptively out of left field, there isn’t much disruption in Wild Nothing’s dependable swathe of brooding melodies and electronic tors but Hold succeeds in standing out for slight nuances and junctures away from a familiar route.

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