Multi-instrumentalist Jack Tatum began making music as Wild Nothing in 2009, turning away from the lo-fi indie and folk pop of his previous bands and towards the mid-1980’s for inspiration instead. Borrowing heavily from C86 scene and dream pop, as well as everything from Echo & the Bunnymen to New Order, his home recorded debut full-length Gemini arrived in 2010. What it lacked in originality it more than made up for with great tracks like “Summer Holiday” and “Chinatown”. Featuring a mix of jangly and reverb-laden guitars over programmed beats, delivered in soft, laid back manner, Tatum did more than enough with his influences to win over both critics and fans.
For his 2012 follow-up Nocturne, Tatum took his sound out of the bedroom and into the studio to work with Nicolas Vernhes. It was a step-up from Gemini, creating a smoother, more polished and maturer album. Tweaking the sound heard on his debut, Nocturne featured more layers, like the addition of strings on opener “Shadow”, plenty of superbly understated basslines and the inclusion live drums, which resulted in it packing more of a punch. It may have been missing the standout tracks found on Gemini but it more than made up for this by being a more complex, cohesive and consistent record overall.
Life of Pause is Tatum’s latest full-length effort and it sees him going for a more synth-orientated approach. Huge hints of this change of direction could be heard on his 2013 EP Empty Estate, which sounded like it took at some least inspiration from David Bowie’s late 1970’s Berlin Trilogy. The 1980’s influences of his first two albums are still very much present on Life of Pause, but Tatum also looks to the preceding decade for ideas this time around. The result is an album that contains plenty of variety, with each track having its own particular feel, showcasing how deeply Tatum has studied the period from which he borrows so heavily.
Shimmering opener “Reichpop”, carried along by a nice bass and marimba combo, more or less begins where Tatum’s 2013 EP left off. “Lady Blue” and “TV Queen” offer up two great examples of his understanding of how to write solid old school pop numbers. “A Woman’s Wisdom” features an interesting and very enjoyable blend of R&B meets Rain Dances-era Camel. The synths may play the lead role on Life of Pause, but there’s also room for a couple of post-punk inspired numbers with “Japanese Alice” coming out sounding like Wire’s “Outdoor Miner” covered by Buzzcocks, while the more driving “To Know You” is also among the albums highlights.
Despite one flat moment with “Wherever I” towards the end, there’s very little to grumble about. Life of Pause sees Tatum further evolve his sound in a more synth-focussed direction and pulling it off quite successfully, but something tells you that this is just the beginning rather than the finished product.
Top Tracks: Lady Blue; To Know You; TV Queen
Released: 19 February 2016
Label: Captured Tracks
Producer: Thom Monahan
Rating: Strong 7 to a Light 8