Release Date: Aug 13, 2013
Record label: Sub Pop
Ernest Greene is perpetually late to the party. As a fixture in the chillwave scene, his debut full-length, 2011’s Within and Without, was actually released well after that term had been happily junked. Now, with pop music veering towards minimalism, Greene is doubling down on Paracosm, a lush and atmospheric trip down Reverb Street. Greene may be behind the wave, but thank goodness for it.
Ever since his 2009 EP Life of Leisure, Washed Out’s Ernest Greene has been shrouding listeners in dreamy, reverb-drenched soundscapes that straddle the line between throwback new wave and forward-thinking electronica. Greene’s music has been known to swell and roll through an ocean of soothing samples, digital beats, hook-minded arrangements and slow-motion synths. It’s this methodology that has made Washed Out such an accessible and standout act.
If any artist could escape the now-predictable trappings of the chillwave trend, Ernest Greene would be a good bet. Of that narrowing group of lo-fi purveyors who still adhere to the strictest identifiers of the subgenre (faded soundscapes, dreamy lyrical reflections, and warm, anachronous instrumentation meant to invoke the analog glow of late-'70s/early-'80s slow jams), the native Georgian is assuredly the most savvy: His insular debut as Washed Out, Within and Without, teased glimpses of something far more transcendent than standard retro-gazing pop. Greene's sophomore album, Paracosm, makes good on that promise, exploring the furthest reaches of what bedroom music can accomplish without abandoning it for something totally unfamiliar.
Review Summary: Close your eyes, you’re weightless now. “Leave it all and start again,” sings Ernest Greene/Washed Out on “Weightless”, one of the many standouts on Paracosm, his second album for the Sub Pop label. The sentiment Greene expresses is telling: the jury may still be out on whether chillwave actually constitutes a distinct genre, but if there ever was a record that gave form to the term’s defining characteristics, it was the American’s now-seminal debut, Within and Without.
If Washed Out's first album Within and Without lived up to the band's name, and as the band's Ernest Greene has said, sounded monochromatic, the follow-up, 2013's Paracosm, sounds like a 21-gun salute fired from cannons filled with brightly colored confetti in comparison. Greene made a couple of big adjustments to the way he recorded this album -- first he moved out to the countryside to get his head cleared out, then he decided to add a raft of vintage synths like Optigans and Mellotrons to his arsenal. The former helped him focus his attention and allowed him to pay microscopic attention to the sonic details; the latter added a major amount of variety and warmth to the album, bathing it in echoing tones of color and light.
The labels we use to define music might be useful from the perspective of a enthusiastic listener, but for an artist they can be an invisible cage. The confines of which many of Washed Out's peers have attempted to break free from - with varying degrees of success. So maybe it's a testament to Ernest Greene's tenacity that for his second album, Paracosm, he doesn't search for something tangible or kick against the lazy definition of that dreaded c-word.
Recently, Intel-sponsored online arts channel The Creators Project turned its attention to US musician Ernest Greene. They released two short videos about the sounds Greene had used on his second full-length album under the name Washed Out. Anyone whose idea of a gripping rock doc involves a nice but unassuming 30-year-old from Georgia discussing the relative merits of digital and analogue recording techniques before concluding that there's no right or wrong way to make an album is advised to hasten to YouTube, strap themselves in and prepare for the audio-visual thrill-ride of the year.
Eight months in and 2013 already seems to be a great year for musical reinvention. We’ve seen many an artist pushing beyond the limitations of restrictive, niche sounds and finding fresher pastures for ploughing (oOoOO, Forest Swords), or others jettisoning their own self-imposed aesthetics for something just a little more groundbreaking (Youth Lagoon, Wild Nothing). Georgian ‘chillwave’ alumnus Ernest Greene continues this trend on Paracosm, his sophomore full-length under the Washed Out moniker, but perhaps that should come as no surprise.
The titles of Washed Out’s breakthrough song and the first single from Paracosm share the two most important words in Ernest Greene’s musical language: feel it. It’s a simple request, as well as the dividing line between those who think of Washed Out as an evocative catalyst of warm nostalgia and those who hear Greene as someone fumbling around for a tune like he's trying to find the snooze button. Four years after “Feel It All Around” defined chillwave, and two since Within and Without stood against the backlash, Paracosm presents Greene as a man without a movement, someone whose music can no longer be used to project opinions about a larger trend.
Bad news first: this album will not force you to make-out with every person you see on the street. That could be good news for some, but unlike the debut album, Within and Without, Paracosm isn’t exactly meant for sexy time. There’s also not a Feel It All Around level of intensity with any single track. This is a classic case of ‘the same but different’.
As the namesake for Washed Out’s latest LP, Paracosm is at once perfectly appropriate and bafflingly unbefitting. In the former sense, the album adheres to the word’s dictionary definition, being an audible depiction of a childlike fantasy world, rich with carefree sentiments, chirping birds and cooing woodland creatures and the resulting feeling of lying in a sun-soaked valley. Yet lacing that perception is the idea that the world stretched across the record’s nine tracks is not tethered to a child’s imagination.
After capitalizing on the hype built by breakout EP Life of Leisure, Washed Out's Ernest Greene released the more dance-focused Within & Without for Sub Pop in 2011. It was a satisfying, if a little disjointed, debut; Greene was unsure of the direction he wanted Washed Out to take and struggled to find a cohesive narrative for the album to follow. With Paracosm, Greene has found steady footing that balances his electronic compositions with a lush, psychedelic palette that, at times, evokes the Flaming Lips more than former chillwave peers Small Black and Toro Y Moi.
Ernest Greene, aka Washed Out, pulled off one of the surprises of 2011 with his debut album, Within And Without, despite being pigeonholed early in his career as part of the chillwave movement. The genre, which was applied to bands relying on a heavy use of synths and processed vocals, was mocked in some quarters. In reality, chillwave was just a throwaway description of music that did far more than it suggested.
The biggest surprise about Washed Out's 2011 debut was just how warm it felt. Buried amongst a clamour of too-cool-for-school hypnagogic popstrels Within and Without was a snug, amiable pleasure; the kind of record that greeted listeners with a beaming smile before dousing them in rich sonic textures and gooey melodies. .
Remember a few years ago when every new buzz band was being described as "chillwave," even though the genre term was mostly an internet joke? Then every chillwave act tried to prove their authenticity by going into traditional studios with actual instruments and not burying their vocals in the mix as much. Paracosm finds Washed Out (aka Ernest Greene) entering that second phase of his career, and the results are predictable but also pleasant. Greene may be relying on his laptop less and his guitar more, but the moods and gossamer textures are still in line with his earlier sample-based material.
Ernest Greene's second album opens with the very un-synthetic sound of birds chirping. Heavy-handed point made: The chillwave pioneer has woken up and gone organic on Paracosm, trading the sexy wooze-outs of his 2011 debut for slightly brighter, more pastoral vibes. Greene's meticulous creations are still slow-rolling and thickly layered, but this time he and returning Animal Collective producer Ben Allen slather on less futuristic sounds: Mellotron, bongos, children laughing.
paracosm n. A prolonged fantasy world invented by children; can have a definite geography and language and history. The Modernist reading of Picasso’s early-20th century Analytic Cubist period asserts that, by deconstructing the fundamental artificiality of traditional, perspectival representation — by tearing down and challenging Western painting’s prior focus on the realistic emulation of three-dimensional space — the painter began to assert the literal flatness of the painting’s surface, emphasizing the true, tangible materiality of the canvas rather than any sort of illusionistic, constructed space.
“It was very much a reaction against Southern music,” Washed Out’s Ernest Greene told Pitchfork last week, speaking of his early music. “I grew up in Macon, Georgia, where the Allman Brothers came from, and I was always the kid rebelling against [them].” Just past his 30th birthday, Greene is no longer a kid, and you get the sense he’s no longer so concerned with pushing back against summery, Southern-tinged embellishments. They’re all over his sophomore effort, Paracosm.
On this record's title track there's a repeated rippling noise that sounds exactly like the sound effect used to denote the beginning of a "dream sequence" in a tongue-in-cheek movie. "Chillwave", the genre with which Washed Out, or Ernest Greene, is synonymous, was always a tongue-in-cheek name but this remains non-ironic music about nothing more interesting than vague good vibes ("Weekend's almost here now/ It's getting warmer outside"). Weightless, for example, feels just that: a pleasant sensation, but it makes you long for some ballast to alleviate the boredom.
opinion byDREW MALMUTH The last decade has forever changed the way musicians think about genre. It was once a reliable indicator of a band's sound and often an encapsulation of anything from geographic origin to fashion tendencies. Being a part of new wave, or no wave, or hip-hop meant something for the artists involved. This connection to genre has become increasingly tenuous as more musicians form careers independent of any particular scene or permanent aesthetic.
Washed Out – Paracosm (Sub Pop)The name, Washed Out, while so befitting the style and cool sophisticated vibe of earlier releases, was never intended to impede singer-songwriter-producer Ernest Greene’s approach to music or his creative process. As such, the self-employed librarian’s 2013 full-length release Paracosm will take some listeners by surprise. It presents quite a leap onto a new sonic path, and it’s not for everyone.2010’s Life of Leisure and 2011’s Within and Without were both predominantly lo-fi, intimate and yet anthemic in their own ways– with several instantly approachable and memorable songs.
Ernest Greene’s sophomore album is punk in the sense that it ranks high in self-inflicted neuroticism. If punk was a reaction to the introspective singer/songwriter vibes of the cooled-off hippie generation, Paracosm is a reaction to the musical and cultural occurrences of the 21st century. Punk was a call for a new tone. Paracosm seems to be one too.Like other chillwavers, Panda Bear, Memory Tapes, and Neon Indian, Washed Out is a chill pill for the Xanax generation.
It’s easy - and at times necessary - to consider context when thinking about Washed Out. The moment his debut ‘Within and Without’ arrived was the moment a movement ended. It was the very same swelling of change that Ernest Greene began. But all the same it was one that lost its focus in a process of desaturation.
Chillwave is fast becoming the 21st-century equivalent of shoegaze – a genre that was briefly ball-achingly cool before becoming maligned almost overnight with a load of divergent acts lumped under the banner and pelted with verbal stones. It's hard not to feel some degree of sympathy with Georgia's Ernest Greene, aka Washed Out, who was put forward as the poster boy of the chillwave scene and dismissed by many as a classic case of style over substance – music for American Apparel advertisements and Urban Outfitters in-store playlists. Admittedly Greene often didn't do himself any favours, with videos like the one for 'Amor Fati' being a hipster's gap year wet dream shot on Hispstamatic.
A shimmery chord wells up amid bird calls and forest rustles to begin “Paracosm” (Sub Pop), the second album by Washed Out, Ernest Greene’s recording project. A paracosm is an imaginary world, and the one that’s conjured by Washed Out floats in a benign haze: “What’s it all about?/The ….
Washed Out Paracosm (Sub Pop) Ernest Greene seems like a pretty happy guy. He's married, never felt the need to leave Georgia, and he's signed to Sub Pop. Washed Out doesn't need to prove much to anyone anymore, and maybe that's why Paracosm stands as an especially blissful outing in an already winsome career. He's ditched most of the lo-fi compression defining his earliest songs, stocking the studio with drums and guitars.