Two years ago, Atlanta, Georgia-based multi-instrumentalist Ernest Greene, going by the name Washed Out, released Life of Leisure. The EP was an admirable laptop-created debut for Greene, and he was widely acknowledged as one of the pioneers of the chillwave genre alongside like-minded Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick, Small Black’s Ryan Heyner and Josh Kolenik, and Teen Daze’s Teen Daze (who prefers to not go by his name). Now, signed to a major indie label and enjoying the true in-studio process it entails (including working with Ben Allen of Merriweather Post Pavilion and Halycon Digest fame), Washed Out has returned with Within and Without, one of the most infectious albums of the summer, and possibly 2011.
Aside from the advances in recording, which resulted in a more polished sophomore effort, it is the duality of Within and Without that makes it outshine other electronic acts that have the tendency to fall into a static motif. The upbeat tracks slowly flood your ears, while the more somber tracks leave you in a melancholy, yet appreciative state. Whether under the shine of the sun or the glow of streetlights, Within and Without’s rich electronic dreamscapes provide the perfect music for a drive this time of year. ‘Amor Fati’ is the epitome of a summer song. With its pulsating synth, a steady beat, and some of the most uplifting lyrics ever, the track encourages its listeners to understand that the world is theirs and that they can decide their own fate.
The attention paid to balance in the album is noteworthy. The opening of ‘Far Away’ sounds similar to a Chromatics song, but then morphs into the unfamiliar sound of cellos over a minimalistic bass that leaves your ears vulnerably and cautiously awaiting what’s next to come. Fortunately, lifting you out of that trance is the sunny disposition of ‘Before’, but before long you are placed right back into the darker corners of Washed Out’s repertoire with ‘You and I’.
I have been patiently waiting two years to see where Washed Out would take his music, and the end result has far exceeded my expectations. Greene has polished his sound, extended the length of his tracks, and ventured away from his lo-fi beginnings. With Within and Without, Greene has solidified himself as an artist that exceeds his hype by paying close attention to contrast, and in doing so creating a balanced album of both halcyon melodies and paradisiacal summer songs.
Tags: Washed Out