Wild Nothing – Nocturne (Bella Union Records)
August 7, 2012 by Tshepo Mokoena
It’s been a little while since we heard from Wild Nothing, with his aptly-titled Golden Haze EP first unleashed unto our ears almost two years ago. Since then Virginia multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Jack Tatum’s matured his sound, lowered the pitch of his vocalised musings and diverted off the better-beaten lo-fi track to enter new and exciting territory. Though live he plays with a band of five, on the record we hear the layers of songs he’s crafted from scratch come to fruition beautifully.
This record initially plays as one of those background sound albums, with the dulcet tones of Tatum’s guitar lines seeming to meld into one from one track to the next. Let that not be a sign of failure or lack of imagination in this case, though: there’s plenty of texture and variation up for grabs throughout Nocturne.
The cascading and interlocking rhythms on ‘Only Heather’ rise and exhale over one another in a way that automatically conjures up images of summertime, flings brought on by the tacky heat and the stomach-jolting pull of fresh romance. As with his previous EP, Tatum is unabashedly opening up the innermost cavity of his chest to share the sentiments that rested within it as he put this full-length together.
Nocturne lives up to its name, as a celebration of the nuanced moments that go bump in the night and are missed by those who don’t challenge their bodies to stay up into the morning’s early and drowsy hours. There is the sense that its title refers to everything from late night partying, blurred at the edges by hours of drinking, to those electric moments that zip between lovers as night hands responsibility back over to the dawn. Somewhere buried in the carefully-applied haze and gauzy film that covers most of this album sit the crisp melodic and rhythmic devices that keep it sounding at once sharply contemporary and dreamily nostalgic.
Opener ‘Shadow’ sets the tone for the record. Earnest confessions daring to admit that a love affair is doomed to fail skip over a deceptively cheery melody line (and make it clear Tatum is a Smiths fan through and through). Itís exactly the play on duality between lyrical content and chord structure that stops the album meandering into murky and clichéd waters while maintaining its upbeat appeal and becomes somewhat of a motif throughout the album. Seven songs in, ‘Disappear Always’ uses a similar device, though in this case itís the pulsating bassline and delicate percussion that form the base beneath a largely introspective and self-effacing message.
Whether lamenting on the hurt of a connection lost, or basking in the warmth of one that just works, Wild Nothing takes on both our relationships with ourselves and those we love on this album. It’s a lofty task to take on, but one he manages with both style and substance.