Imagine looking into a kaleidoscope — a bright whirlwind of color and ambiguous designs, always transforming into new patterns. It’s intense but soothing and the undulating movements of light are entrancing; you could spend forever with one eye pressed against that small cylinder.
Listening to Wild Nothing’s new album, Life of Pause, is a similar experience.
With four complete albums already behind them, you would think Wild Nothing would put their years of experimenting with hazy vocals and varying electronic backgrounds behind to settle down for something more structured and simple. Fortunately, Wild Nothing continued to explore with albums like Empty Estate and Golden Haze which set the groundwork for (and produced a chromatic, subtly psychedelic adventure in) Life of Pause.
The album opens with “Reichpop” and the soft, Zen-like melody of the first few minutes transitions smoothly into a bright, upbeat tempo that pushes the song from something that you would use to meditate to something that deserves its own light show. By the time “I am the silent son / I am the only one / staying home today” is added to the mix, “Reichpop” is perfectly layered with nebulous vocals on top of a bouncing rhythm on top of the serene melody heard individually in the beginning of the song. It's five minutes of a beautiful catastrophe, and the fun only continues throughout the rest of the album. Title track “Life of Pause” is a mess of contradictions as the buoyant beat overpowers the sorrowful "how come we were in love?” while “Adore” is a compilation of introspective guitar chords and haunting piano melodies that perfectly capture the essence of heartache.
The songs in Life of Pause sew the album together like a patchwork quilt — the edges meld smoothly together but each section is different, which is the reason why this album is so interesting. Each song is its own composition. The only elements tying the entire album together are the muted vocals and ambient rhythm. The song “Japanese Alice” is fast-paced and bewildering in its twirling tempo, completely contrasting the creeping and leisurely “Alien.” The tracks would have been too conflicting to be listened to in the same album if not for the uniting vocals making each song, no matter what the beat, seem remote and indefinite.
And this dissonance in each song fits for most of the album because Wild Nothing usually knows how to push their surreal sound without being in your face about it. However, the groovy, harmonious vibe of songs like “To Know You” and “TV Queen” falls flat in the two weakest tracks of the album, “Lady Blue” and “A Woman's Wisdom.” In both songs, the uniformity of the vocals and the beat creates a dreariness that stands out from the rest of the album's bursting vitality. But these are just two songs in the entire 11-track album and actually help to provide a bit of a break from the other dizzying compositions.
Overall, Life of Pause is a mind-blowing dream; a perfect mix of gauzy afternoon jams and retro tunes taken straight from your wildest daydreams and ready for you to explore on a day that is just a little too monotonous.