The solo act of Atlanta-born electronic musician Ernest Greene, Washed Out has gained increasing recognition since the release of Life of Leisure EP for standing as ‘lush chillwave for people who can’t stand chillwave.’ First coined by bloggers, chillwave is a term used to describe electronic music incorporating elements of dream-pop, shoegaze and ambient music, defined by bands and solo musicians such as Memory Tapes, Neon Indian and Ducktails. As ludicrous as the term may sound, chillwave has become something of a prominent indie subgenre of late, circling around the internet and grasping the ears of teens and adults alike. So, here we are – arriving at the latest instalment of the said sugary subgenre: Washed Out’s first full-length release, a warm and welcoming adventure further into the much-talked-about world of chillwave.
Since the first emergence of these bands, capturing that tantalizing moment between the ‘80s synthesizer craze and the ‘90s anthemic sound has become a common move. To execute this perfectly, the music must be wistfully melodic, with the guitars masterfully interwoven into the mix and the rhythms clear-cut. To say Within & Without carries this all out would be naïve and inaccurate, but instead it creates a uniqueness that works with the best of the above, leaning also towards the genial fabrication of previous decades. This well-balanced and classy approach was first seen from Greene with Feel it All Around – a track which rapidly spread across the web, generating substantial promise and properly kick-starting his musical journey.
Instead of relying solely on the electro-pop style from his previous EP releases, Greene has chosen to create a record which is far more suited to a live atmosphere, taking on a far wider and sparser sound. Sure, the tracks on this album are denser, more compressed perhaps, but one thing is certain: these songs are not remote in the slightest. To a listener completely unaware of any information about the musician, this will sound like the work of more than a single person. While the songs are still built around the same type of dance beats as before, Greene’s passionate yet reverbed vocal performance adds depth and prosperity into the music, while the use of violins at certain points in the album add a more melancholy kick than Life of Leisure EP. On each song, Greene seems to be sweeping up an emotion and making it reverberate with the listener – as demonstrated on Far Away, with that track bringing about notions of innocence and teenage love.
Perhaps the strongest track on the record, however, is You & I. Haunting and near-dark, this deeply affecting song includes a stunning voice sample from Caroline Polachek, who also adds a verse to the track. This track is a prime example of how well Greene knew that electronic beats alone were not enough to connect with his listeners and draw new audiences in. His voice is reminiscent of You Made Me Realise-era Kevin Shields, adding an incredibly organic and raw feel to the album. In order to build more emotion and distinction into his music, Greene has created a larger-scale, meatier sound, which has resulted in a vast expansion. On his debut LP, he appears a seasoned and well-rounded artist, discovering a way to single himself out from his fellow electronic artists falling under the chillwave brand. The future is looking bright for Washed Out.