Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Within and Without" by Washed Out

Within and Without by Washed Out was released on
July 12, 2011 on Sub Pop
Washed Out's Ernest Green was thrust into indie stardom with his debut effort of Life of Leisure, an EP released in 2009 that picked up a lot of steam thanks to favorable reviews from across the board.  Washed Out jumped right into the top-tier of chillwave musicians like Toro y Moi and Neon Indian and now he's right back at it with an even bigger and more aurally adventurous project, his first full length Within and Without.  Released on Sub Pop, Within and Without shows that Ernest Green continues to grow musically along with the rest of his early front running peers in the chillwave movement.

It's easy to just fall into habit and keep making the same records over and over, especially in a genre as subversive as chillwave where if you're not paying attention to the subtle nuances of the music then one could easily get lost in the sounds and simply dismiss it as 'another generic chillwave song'.  I've heard it before as a complaint and it can be deemed as legitimate amongst the majority of the artists in that genre, there's many who simply believe reverberated vocals and catchy synth lines can equal good and entertaining music, but what truly makes artists like Ernest Green stick out from the crowd are the unique changes to his sounds from Life of Leisure, he's added a plethora of live instruments and has toned down the focus on making catchy and vibrant pop songs in favor of slow-brooding sonic landscapes that can leave the listener floating through this forty-minute album in seemingly no time.

As previously stated, there's no real poppy standout with a gigantic chorus that all of the kids can latch onto for this summer release but that doesn't mean that the album doesn't catch your attention and keep it there throughout the duration of this album.  Tracks like "Far Away" feature densely layered instrumentation with cello, sharp percussion and dreamy synth, focusing more on exploring the depths of his sounds rather than producing memorable vocal hooks.  That would be one of my few qualms with the album though, there's no huge defining moment on this in terms of standout tracks.  Each track is great and gives a little more insight as to the sound that Ernest Greene is and has been toying with since his debut, but it lacks that middle ground between exploring your realms as an artist and still having a palpable and bold attention-grabber of either a vocal melody or a riff.

Ernest Greene seems to have taken Life of Leisure and used it as his solid foundation to build upon, because while he's not breaking from the formula of this fledgling genre, he's certainly adding to it and expanding upon it's already strong and ensconcing sound that has the ability to draw listeners in with the faintest parts of a song.  It's an incredibly accessible genre that Greene seems to have grasped firmly in his hands, and while Within and Without may not boast a summer anthem like "Feel It All Around", it still has some great tracks that shine a bit of a new light on the genre.  Adding in more instrumentation, tastefully using samples, driving along through tight drum beats and airy, ethereal synth lines, Within and Without is a great album to pick up and get lost in.  The same goes for fellow chillwave standout Toro y Moi when I say that I have great joy in seeing Ernest Greene grow as an artist and really expand upon the already solid foundation that he's built for himself.

Rating: 8.3/10
Standout Tracks: "Far Away", "A Dedication", "Echoes"

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