Review: Wild Nothing – Nocturne
Published on September 10th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Wild Nothing’s 2010 debut LP Gemini was characterised by an ’80s anglicised melancholy that was present as a result of band leader Jack Tatum’s cultural and personal isolation, living in the rural college town of Blacksburg as he did. However Nocturne, Jack Tatum’s second album under the Wild Nothing moniker, arrives under different circumstances with Tatum relocating to New York, a city known for its thriving artistic identity. Despite Tatum’s relocation the resigned loneliness that lent Gemini so much of its charm is still present, albeit competing for the listener’s attention with other moods and colours previously absent to the band’s pallet.
The melancholy that showed itself on the band’s debut remains present yet manifests itself amidst grander production and more impressive instrumentation, all of which adds a stately grandeur that often produces spellbinding results. Indeed lyrics such as “Boys don’t cry, they just want to die” have been replaced by sweeping strings, luxuriant psychedelia and spiralling intertwined guitars. Tatum’s voice too possesses greater range, his baritone on “Paradise” rich with drama where elsewhere his vocals are whispered and light.
On “Shadow” they don’t dictate the melody so much as float on top of it, accentuating where necessary. Indeed “Shadow” acts as both an album highlight and a marker of Wild Nothing’s progression, sweeping strings lying on top of a jangly guitar, Tatum’s vocals, weightless like the those of an acquiescent Billy Corgan, retreating in on themselves against the crushing and climactic beauty of cello, violin and viola.
As the record progresses the production shows itself to be staggeringly good, and for the most part the songs are consumed by a great warmth akin to that of Cocteau Twins circa Heaven or Las Vegas. In opposition to this lies a disconnect that drives the record, comforting instrumentation that’s coloured by flecks of disco and English ’80s indie, underpinned by lyrics of longing and unfulfilled desire. Tatum’s lyrics here have a desperation and hopeless elegance that recalls Morrissey: “Do you ever see me at night?”, “I can’t feel your heart, I’ve been gone” and “I just want to let you know, you can have me”, for instance.
The press release refers to Nocturne as being more “adult”, and while the sophistication of a track like “Paradise” would suggest this to be true this is mainly noticeable in the lyrics, as opposed to Gemini which relied on storytelling (“Summer Holiday”) and a general expression of whimsicality (“Live In Dreams”). Nocturne attempts to describe (often abstract) situations, using a poetic detachment; it isn’t always entirely successful in doing so – he’s better at describing melancholy than Cure-esque desperation – it shows an admirable willingness to evolve. Fittingly the listener is often rewarded.
Pleasingly the record is neither top nor bottom heavy. Weaker moments, such as the stuttering psychedelia of “Through The Grass”, are preceded and followed by the glorious abandon of the title track and the giddy love described in “Only Heather”. What makes Nocturne such a joy is that Tatum sets himself ambitious yet attainable goals, and achieves them. Speaking to Pitchfork, Tatum asserted that the music he makes is that which “comes naturally to [him]”: it’s clear he loves dream-pop and thus creates it lovingly. Instead of reinventing himself with album two he merely intended to improve upon the formula he’d established with the terrific Gemini, and does so spectacularly.
As with the glorious transcendent chorus of “Midnight Song”, “Counting Days” and “Rheya” there lies a sound that’s archetypically Wild Nothing. You’d be a fool not to see how it progresses with the next releases, or indeed how it has done with this.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
Nocturne is out now on Bella Union. For more information please visit wildnothing.bigcartel.com