Ephemeral but extraordinarily pleasant, this self-recorded, solo debut from Jack Tatum blows in like a summer breeze through cotton curtains, billowing, translucent and utterly, lullingly pretty. That it’s gone the minute you stop listening is not really a negative. Like rainbows, soap bubbles and cherry popsicles, Tatum’s songs are partly beautiful because they are so fleeting.
With Wild Nothing, Tatum works in a luminous pastel palette, dreamily recollecting Ariel Pink in his disembodied falsetto, Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Real Estate in his laid-back C86 jangle. There’s a certain amount of frictive guitar strumming, of new wave drum machine beats and percolating bass underpinnings, yet the overall feel is glossily free of urgency. You might hear little hints of the Cure in the synths and bass of “Summer Holiday,” but it’s a “Friday I’m In Love” version of the Cure, with all the brooding dissatisfaction and angst drained off.
Tatum, like much of the Captured Tracks/Woodsist/Slumberland contingent, records on the cheap, yet Gemini is anything but lo-fi. Extreme clarity, particularly in the keyboards and guitars, gives the record a surreal luminosity. The notes don’t blur into one another, but instead hang on, distinct from one another, in bright pixilated pools of sound. The overall effect is one of supersaturation, hyper-reality even, as if you could hear more than the naked ear usually does. “Pessimist,” the most abstract, untethered cut on the album, allows precise little tambourine clinks to poke through its dream-fuzzed vocal flourishes, both sounds equally present in the mix.
The sound is so pretty that it almost works without strong song structure, yet you notice, on the couple of occasions when Tatum hauls out a really good melody, that hooks would strengthen the case. “Chinatown” breaks through the “What a nice dream I’m having” haze first, with the disc’s most memorable melody. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu to the cut, as if you might have heard it on MTV sometime during the 1980s, sandwiched between Ah Ha’s “Take on Me” and Split Enz “I Got You.”
Still, for most of Gemini, you float through the songs, atop a lukewarm bath of pleasant sensation. It’s not a bad way to spend a half an hour, and if you can’t remember much afterwards, you can always go for another dip.