Release Date: Jul 12, 2011
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic
Before he even released a full-length album, 28-year-old Georgia native Ernest Greene had become America’s ambassador for zonked-out electro-pop - a.k.a. "chillwave." His gorgeous debut proves why he’s the dude for the job: Within and Without's nine tracks are full of perfect Quaalude grooves: stacks of lush synths and layers of harmonized vocals set to gently thumping beats. Ben Allen, who produced Animal Collective's breakthrough Merriweather Post Pavilion, helps Greene sculpt opener "Eyes Be Closed" into an ecstatic reverie, while bringing in some of the slippery drums that defined 1990s trip-hop ("Within and Without") and even some Erasure-style dance-pop ("Amor Foti").
Everything about Within and Without is washed out, from Ernest Greene’s lyrics to the way the mastermind’s keyboards dip and dive through waves of filters. It’s lush and aquatic, as if Kings of Convenience went to the world’s best downer dance party. Songs like “You and I” and “Soft” are driven by slippery propulsion and deep bass grooves, borne seamlessly and ceaselessly forward.
Despite being the butt of jokes because of its goofy but actually spot-on name, chillwave as an idea and a sound is here to stay. Synthesizers are in; guitar-based rock has taken a backseat to diffuse, rhythmic dance music; and the sound's key influences (broken, blissed-out electronica, hip-hop) have leached into most interesting music happening right now. So, where does a significant subgenre defined by the less-than-lofty goal of manufacturing good vibes go next? The artists either do the same thing with the same synth presets to diminishing returns (Memory Tapes, Small Black, Teen Daze) or they pull a Toro Y Moi on Underneath the Pine and morph into something different altogether.
No musician has mastered the slippery genre called “bedroom music” quite as well as Ernest Greene, better known by his stage name Washed Out. Greene’s 2009 EP, Life of Leisure, quickly established the Georgia native as a lo-fi virtuoso, as he expertly blended early-‘80s funk-pop, modern chillwave, and psychedelic folk with a much-welcomed knack for pop aesthetics. Greene manages to possess something beyond technical genre mastery though: Like a faded childhood photograph, his music is effective in its subtle conjuration of intricate sentimentality.
By way of an introduction, it would seem pretty important to address those who may have been living under a blog-shaped rock for a little while now. You may well have seen ridiculous genre names being bounded around, emerging from a completely nonsensical scattering of compound musical nouns. 'Chillwave' has, by far and away, been one of the simplest to pour scorn upon, a crude lumping together of a generation of electronic producers focussed on bringing out their love for esoteric, sampled pop music.
Even if you haven't heard the name before, you can divine a lot about the sound made by Georgia-based bedroom auteur Ernest Greene from the promotional gimmick for Within and Without. It involves constructing a bed in the middle of London's Rough Trade East record shop and inviting shoppers to listen to the album while tucked in. Notice is thus served that Washed Out probably don't sound like Cannibal Corpse, although nor is this debut quite as somnambulant as the whole bed thing suggests.
For his first full-length and Sub Pop debut, Georgia good-old boy Ernest Greene hasn’t moved too far from the sound that found him first making (chill)waves in the music blogosphere in 2009. But whereas his breakout EP, Life of Leisure, was filled with the kind of nostalgia-inducing synths and squishy ‘80s R&Beats that were enough to make certain historically-minded musical appreciators toss their lunch all over their MacBooks, there are serious harmonies, fleshed-out choruses and flat-out gorgeous songs throughout Within and Without. The result, while less of a party, perhaps, than Life of Leisure, ultimately shows a certain maturation on Greene’s part, and a more considered aesthetic overall.
Atlanta’s Ernest Greene, who records and performs under the moniker Washed Out, has been riding a boatload of hype in the indie rock sphere. He has most notably provided the indie-friendly TV show Portlandia with a theme song in the form of his “Feel It All Around” and, with the release of his first full-length album, Within and Without, it seems that everyone has something to say about the record. Some people seem to either really like it, or really dislike it in equal measure – making it hard to get a cultural reading on the album.
Why is it that music is never quite as transcendental as we would like it to be? While we’re never quite able to dissolve into the flow of notes (chemically-enhanced moments aside), we keep on chasing that elusive thrill, the ‘oceanic feeling’ that sonic experience promises to provide, despite the fact that it never actually arrives (if we are to believe Freud, this would demonstrate an immaturity, an escapist desire to return to the blissful narcissistic unity of the mother as opposed to the mature rationality and separation of the father). If indeed this is a regressive pastime, it’s a true chasing of the dragon, ultimately (painfully) futile but with its own pleasures of exquisite tension and expectation, that is, jouissance. This is a gratification that is not too dissimilar to that provided by nostalgia, by the longing for a past whose transcendent and seemingly lost pleasures exist/ed nowhere except in the memory of them — and in the dreamy summer of ought-nine, a plethora of chillwave bands tried their lackadaisicalest to evoke both that pleasure and its unattainability.
Within and Without is Washed Out's debut album for Sub Pop and the first chance a wide audience will have to hear Ernest Greene’s brand of dreamy, drowsy synth pop. While many will be drawn into the slickly sweet sound he creates, those who already knew of Washed Out’s work may find themselves disappointed by the glossy, overcooked production. Early singles and EPs had a slightly ramshackle sound built on cheap-sounding synths and Greene's pleading (and buried-in-reverb) vocals; this LP has a sound so shimmery and sleek it slides right through your brain without leaving a mark.
If the cover image of a naked couple frozen mid-coitus is any indication, the debut LP from Washed Out finds Atlanta-based musician Ernest Greene in a baby-making mood. Lately it seems like the sensual, slowed-down pleasures of R&B have overtaken the indie world, though Greene's been on the love train since 2009's Life Of Leisure EP. Opener Eyes Be Closed eases listeners into his somnambulistic haze of vocal delays, drum loops and shimmering synths.
Chillwave is dying out for a reason. It’s a decent idea, and some pretty great stuff has come out of it, but, in the end, it’s very limited in its scope. Washed Out’s first full length, Within and Without, is a shining example of the genres limitations. Ernest Green, the man behind the name, was one of the flag bearers of something new and interesting when his first string of EPs came out in 2009.
One of the most impressive and telling descriptions regarding musician Ernest Greene’s bedroom project Washed Out is that it’s “lush chillwave for people who can’t stand chillwave. ” As ridiculous of a term as chillwave may be, it perfectly describes the nine tracks’ baseline sound: a certain recording location (chosen either out of necessity or a perceived loyalty), a de-emphasis on vocal performances, and an abundance of blown out, overly busy structures and effects. But while his cohorts may be making tracks that veer off into the hazy unknown, the Georgia-bred synth maestro has created for himself an anchor in hip hop.
It’s been two years since bedroom producer Ernest Greene (better known by his stage name, Washed Out) and his loosely associated chillwave comrades inaugurated their blog-heralded genre in the summer of 2009. Greene became a symbol of sorts for the fledgling movement, recording his Life Of Leisure EP on the back porch of his parents’ rural Georgia home before attracting a respectable following on the strength of a standout track that got picked up as a TV theme song. These days, he’s up to bigger things, having signed to Sub Pop to record his first full-length at a proper studio.
If you attempt to parse together chillwave’s patchwork history, it was probably born about 30 years ago but then laid dormant until 2009 when three artists named Chaz Bundick, Alan Palomo, and Ernest Greene began to make waves in the blogging community with their smeary bedroom synth-pop. The summer of 2010 was the newly christened style’s moment in the limelight; chillwave – or glo-fi, or hypnagogic pop, etcetera – probably would’ve met its inevitable backlash even sooner had its popularity not peaked in those dog days of June, July, and August. Frankly, it’d be hard to conjure up a specific musical niche that more pointedly encapsulates the year’s hottest season than the one in which Toro y Moi, Neon Indian, and Washed Out dabble.
Georgia-based chillwave early-adopter finally issues debut album. Paul Lester 2011 The very name that Ernest Greene chose as his recording and performance alias – Washed Out – came to define the aching, sun-bleached, hazy aesthetic of the style of music variously known as chillwave, glo-fi and hypnagogic pop. He emerged in 2009, roughly coinciding with Memory Tapes, Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi and all the other purveyors of this distinctive keyboard-based sound, and already by 2010 their music was being dismissed in some quarters as a passing fad, a sepia snapshot of a musical era that was itself about capturing fading memories.