Jack Tatum's gleaming nocturnal synth pop as Wild Nothing produced not only an incredible string of recordings, but also spearheaded a micro-movement of indie-level dream pop more rooted in the '80s synth reflections of acts like Echo & the Bunnymen or Aztec Camera than the mumbly fractalized bedroom productions coming from chillwave circles. 2010's brilliant debut Gemini and 2012's more polished Nocturne were bridged by the piecemeal Golden Haze EP, and now Empty Estate follows that trend with seven new tracks to tide fans over until the release of a third album. While Wild Nothing's output up to this point saw various upgrades in production values, they all maintained a certain consistency and overall color. Empty Estate, while every bit as polished (if not more so) than the fancifully recorded Nocturne, sets itself apart by exploring different absent-minded stylistic detours on almost every track. The set is opened by the swaggering midtempo rock of "The Body in Rainfall," which sees Tatum applying some subtle Heroes-era Bowie-isms to his jauntily melodic palette. Tracks like the upbeat "Data World" and "A Dancing Shell" come closer to the shimmery '80s-inspired sounds we're used to from Wild Nothing, but they're more curious, with a lot more sequenced electronics and some awkward risky moments. Blurty processed sax solos, robotic vocoder voices, and jagged guitar lines all drop in for segments and then disappear, some of the ideas translating well and others just coming along for the ride. These more straightforward moments are broken up by tracks like the wobbly instrumental bubbling of "On Guyot" or the hypnotic slow-burning faux-Krautrock of "Ride." Certain moments feel more like tentative experiments, but ultimately any of these tracks could be the jumping-off point for an entire album's worth of material, and hearing them all together makes for a more interesting presentation. By the time closing track "Hachiko" comes in with its softly ambient strains, Empty Estate has wandered through various modes, ultimately coming off like a thoroughly pleasant but unexpected long walk on a summer evening, with Tatum stopping for a moment to say hello to all his various different inclinations for a moment before moving on.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas