Pop Addict: Washed Out’s Within and Without

Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.

Washed Out: Within and WithoutWashed Out: Within and Without (Sub Pop, 7/12/11)

Washed Out: “Amor Fati”

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In 2009, indie-electronica novice Ernest Greene appeared on the scene under the moniker Washed Out, offering an accessible and diverse dose of new wave with the impressive Life of Leisure EP. The debut recording delved into a re-imagined electronica sound, taking cues from mid-’80s synth heavyweights and incorporating a modern twist. It was a very bright start, but it was only a matter of time before Greene’s fresh, revitalized “chillwave” sound was put to the test on a full-length effort.

Two years later, Washed Out has returned with a proper LP — Within and Without — that expands on that initial, unique sound. Employing a glut of synths and electronic beats, Washed Out has taken new wave to a whole new level, modernizing the sound and legitimizing the genre. Mixing slowed dance beats with synth-heavy arrangements and various electronica ornamentations, Washed Out has put together a solid, unified offering.

Within and Without’s soothing soundscapes stem from the standout opener, “Eyes Be Closed.” Integrating waves of synth with steady drumming and atmospheric strings, the track moves fluidly, fluctuating between Washed Out’s subtle yet complex inner workings. There are a lot of things going on musically, with ocean-like soundscapes pulling in and out, shoring up with spastic, spaced-out keys and a sea of, well, “washed out” and reverberated vocals that submerge into the rest of the song, becoming musical textures within themselves.

The opening track sets the stage for the rest of the album: a soft-served concoction of grooves, beats, and harmonies that cling to each other and rarely let go. The album swells and rolls like a coastline — moving back and forth between a dance record and a lo-fi chill-fest. It’s the perfect medium, meeting both music types halfway. From the late-night-highway-driving qualities of “Far Away,” to the sparse singer/songwriter aspects of “A Dedication,” to the endearing tropical lightness of “Amor Fati,”  Washed Out is able to capture a swath of moods. Each song is drenched in atmosphere, a collection of electronic peripheries, perfectly timed digital drumbeats, and hook-laden melodies.

The music expands as the songs go on, and Greene is happy to throw in a barrage of random percussion noises and random hits (see “Echoes”) and slowed-down groove beats (see “Soft”). Within and Without’s knack for pop catchiness frequently blends slow with upbeat, dreamy with focused — always mixing the music with the vocals, which often become indistinguishable from each other.

Washed Out’s sound isn’t new, necessarily, but Greene takes what has come before him and elaborates on it, turning a oft-hackneyed genre into one of re-imagination and prestige. Washed Out even ventures beyond the genre and is able to find a middle ground between the dance poppiness of Cut Copy and the subtle, soft-spoken intricacies of Panda Bear. His ability to transform these disparate influences into something his own makes this a can’t-miss musical experience.

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