Fans may be skeptical about the live translation of Washed Out’s bedroom pop, and with good reason. Atlanta chill wave/synth-pop artist Ernest Greene has hitherto relied heavily on sequencing and sampling in his recorded work, elements that are admittedly challenging for him to recreate live. Accordingly, he takes a different approach in his performances, which are complete with live drums and bass. At the Echoplex, Washed Out’s instrumentation was understandably more explicit and less lo-fi than on record, effectively supplying high energy to the eager-to-be-stimulated audience.
Meshed synths swelled over the live rhythm foundation on the uplifting “New Theory,” mirroring the reflective textures of the album version. Greene invited a guest sax player onstage who stole the show on “Feel It All Around,” soaring into upper registers in a solo that was cathartic in a space-jazz way unfamiliar to Washed Out.
Though the instrumentals were engaging in their polished form, Greene’s unprecedented vocal presentation was stiff and disappointing. Missing were the shimmering vocal harmonies that are so relatable to the emotionally repressed headphone junkie. With the exception of uplifting stand-out tracks “New Theory” and “Feel It All Around,” Washed Out’s set became monotonous, though danceable, as it lacked the differentiation and intense emotional expression to which listeners are accustomed.
While Washed Out’s set at the Echoplex was dance-provoking, it lacked the sonic qualities that are essential to their popular appeal—warmth, fuzz, simultaneous distance and intimacy. With the evolution of Washed Out, Ernest Greene vacates his bedroom studio, perhaps his most natural environment for creativity, and moves on to bigger (and not necessarily better) things.