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Album Review
Within and Without

Within and Without
by Washed Out

Sub Pop

Review Date
27th September 2011
Reviewed by
Mark Stewart

Anyone who's remotely interested in Ernest Greene's Washed Out is probably very well familiar with his career history. It in itself has become pretty commonplace post about 2008. Middle class kid goes to college, finishes college, looks for job, none found, ends up back at home with Mum and Dad, bored, makes music to pass time and play to friends stuck in the same scenario. Chuck in an unusually sunny summer in the Southern USA, tons of blogs looking to distinguish themselves from the pack in some way (what better way than to create a new genre?!) and Chillwave emerges. Washed Out release an EP early on in this, end up as one of the first big Chillwave bands and get signed to Sub Pop. Two years pass till now.

If his first album after the EP is any indication, summer 2009 Ernest Greene must feel like another person to the Summer 2011 Ernest Greene. The first EP (Life of Leisure) was created at his family home in the middle of the peach growing heart of the USA, done on Reason and Cubase and a bunch of shitty keyboards. He'd send his tunes off to his then label, Mexican Summer, mistakes, guide vocals and all. If they were OK'ed he'd make mental note to go back and fix all the mistakes, then just move on to something else and not do it. Now he's got a studio, backing from a very large indie label, has worked harder getting things right and hired a producer. A good producer too, Ben Allen. This guy has done Deerhunter's Halcyon Digest, mixed and engineered Merriweather Post Pavillion by Animal Collective and works with Cee Lo Green. Allen has changed Greene's bedroom sound completely, doing what normally happens in these scenarios - getting rid of some of the Lo-fi, adding a bit of width/depth to it and bringing in a wider range of instrumentation to the Ernest's arrangements.

Despite a couple of missteps, this works for Washed Out. I do occasionally feel like a little like I'm trapped in a alternate reality where I've been subsumed by Sky 63 and am trapped in a Toto video (Amour Fati), but there's always something there that stops the short novelty of this becoming nightmarish. The synth in Eyes be Closed sounds close to some of whatever Moby was using around the time of Play, which brings fear of the possibility some tool will try to make a name for themselves by initiating some kind of critical reappraisal of Moby's work, which - on an aside - is doubtlessly inevitable at some point - I guess the cliché of being doomed to repeat the past if we ignore it is a cliché for a reason...


In spite of the tarring with the Moby brush, the good outweighs the bad here. Ernest has moved closer to the vocal microphone and the detail that gives helps sell the sense of intimacy he wants to convey, he no longer sounds like a dude singing at you from the back of a massive hall, but rather someone sitting close by in an awesome sounding room. Check out Soft, where this seems particularly effective. Soft has to be one of the most unashamedly romantic songs I've heard from a new artist in some time. The live drums, cleaner synth pads that owe a ton to Eno (Comfort in familiarity in this case) and more controlled vocals means personally I'll be finding new places to play this for some time to come I suspect.

Calling this album Chillwave is unfair and lazy. This hobby writer intentionally let the whole movement just pass him by, but now as always when he does that he's a bit pissed at himself for very nearly missing something based solely on prejudice. Earlier fans will no doubt have been wise to this album for at least a couple of months, I suggest any agnostics get past the stuck in 2009 album art and go listen to this album seriously on decent speakers. Washed Out is moving on from Chillwave and is busy widening both the parameters of his sound and his soft-synth collection to decent effect.



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