Washed Out - Within and Without - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Washed Out - Within and Without

by Rich Morris Rating:5 Release Date:2011-07-11

Under the moniker of Washed Out, Ernest Greene has become something close to the godfather of chillwave. His soupy, somnambulist grooves, part hipster hip hop, part indie boy wet dream, are now saturating the US alternative scene and infiltrating our ideas about cool. Hipstamatic prints, for example, are the visual embodiment of his instant nostalgia sounds. How long before chillwave tunes supplant drippy folk and the go-to music for advertisers looking for that human touch?

But hey, don't blame Greene for that. He might have been at the vanguard of the sound with his 2009 High Times EP, but after that he kind of dropped out the way genuine hipsters do, leaving Memory Tapes, Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi and others to gather the attention and acclaim. So is Greene back with this debut album to show the scene who's daddy? Not really. The fact that this album was launched with a promotional gimmick that involved constructing a bed in London's Rough Trade East shop and inviting shoppers to listen to the album while tucked in tells you something important about Within and Without. The music here doesn't break into a sweat, doesn't gamble around to impress.

However, the bed stunt also implies a degree of Yoko Ono style conceptual art which is absent from the the album's nine songs. Within and Without is a likeable record but it certainly isn't ambitious. Songs such as 'Soft' and the title track are elusive, but not because any tricksy songwriting or production. Rather, it's because this music is all about the opacity of memory, its simulations immersiveness and intangibility. Taking this as the album's broad concept, since it is pretty much chillwave's raison d'etre, Greene succeeds by keeping the vocals distant and hazy, reverberating beneath a slough of synth washes and shuffling near-danceable beats.

It's a formula Greene sticks to without deviation. This is clearly exactly the album he wanted to make, but its lack of variation dims its highlights and, of course, we've heard music like this for a good couple of years now. Greene's not bringing anything new to the chillwave party and his music contains a lot less variation than, say, Toro Y Moi's. Individually, moments such as the mid-80s balladeering of 'Amor Fati' impress but every song seems to drag on just a little too long to be really classic. Also, it's hard to ignore the fact that everyone else has already had their fun with last year's 80s MOR trend.

Within and Without isn't a bad record but it is, frankly, a dull one. It's hard to think of an environment, even chillaxing in bed, where your mind wouldn't wonder while listening to it.

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