Washed Out - Within and Without Album Review
Everyone has a story, and for native Georgian Ernest Greene it began towards the end of 2009 when he moved back home to his parents house from South Carolina, his folks being situated in a rural idyll hidden away amongst peach groves. To that point Greene had been recording what he describes as "Lo-fi rock music" under the pseudonym Lee Weather, but after setting up a DIY studio in his bedroom and recording after his parents had gone to bed, he began creating the music that would become Washed Out's debut EP Life of Leisure, released last year.
Initially Greene had bracketed his new side project as little more than an interesting diversion, but the rapid association it gained with the likes of Toro Y Moi and Neon Indian - both recognised leaders of the newly emerging "Chillwave" movement - changed all that. With obvious nods to acts as diverse as Chapterhouse, Giorgio Moroder and a Tango In the Night Era Fleetwood Mac, Life of Leisure's neon-pastel heartbeat had a vitality and warmth capable of winning over hippy freaks and rave casualties in equal measure, making po-faced Brit counterparts (Step forward, White Lies) sound like sulky older brothers.
Within And Without therefore arrives with the kind of blogosphere expectation levels that can cripple a performer, but astutely Greene has retained much of what gave Life of Leisure its charm, again using swirly atmospherics and layered synths to wrap the listener up in a cherished cocoon. Where there are changes it's also for the better, with the addition of real instruments, such as the drums on Soft and melancholy strings on Far Away, rounding out the laptronica and helping the listener re-establish contact with the real world.
If this willingness to experiment is an indication of broadening horizons, then Greene's choice of a collaborators is a statement of intent, with Animal Collective producer Ben H. Allen at the controls and Chairlift's Caroline Polachek contributing heavily distorted vocals to the surprisingly left field You And I. The involvement of both would seem to indicate that the mainstream may ultimately be Washed Out's destination, but Within And Without's apex still looks backward, as the insistent pulse-crescendoes of Echoes recall the deep and soulful house vibes of Chicago refracted through a quarter of a century of radical experience. Somebody once said that the meek will inherit the earth, and Ernest Greene and friends may be what they're playing the day it happens.