Chilling ’em Softly
Merely dropping the name of a genre in front of the words “is dead” is such a lazy form of critique in a music world where classics remain classics and modern releases seem to be pressed on some perceived perishable medium. The internet, as kids call it these days, seems to think the Hipster Runoff-coined “chillwave” is dead, merely because the boom of similar artists existed so blatantly and fashionably from 2009-2010. That’s simply not true, with artists like Toro Y Moi and Slow Magic re-inventing sound in a post-apocalyptic America (the world ended right?). Washed Out is no different, and Within and Without proves lush, “washed out” soundscapes over phat beats is never a bad thing in the huge world of electronic music.
The album quickly starts off with huge, delayed synths in “Eyes Be Closed.” A sprinkle of Tears For Fears, Ernest Green’s whispery, shoegaze vocals and you’re quickly transported to beachside resorts, cut-off shorts and blurry vision. “Amor Fati” is a huge nod to ’90s blissrock group, Chapterhouse, with the uplifting pop stucture and drum beat of the 1991 single “Pearl,” making you reach for that red flannel in your closet. Green does a good job of injecting more of a “songwriter” vibe into this track, focusing more on the song than it’s production, which stands just fine on its own two feet.
“Far Away” and “Before” have somewhat of a sensuality to them, with popping basslines and sexy drumwork. It evokes the same visceral effect found in Green’s first release, Life of Leisure.
“A Dedication” ends the album with Green’s vocals finally pushed to the front and fairly audible. Nods to chamber pop legend Brian Wilson shows that Washed Out knows how to use the sonic space effectively and efficiently. The song also concludes Within and Without with a bittersweet taste in your mouth–an emotional end to the dreamworld evoked in most “chillwave/glo-fi” releases.
Within and Without, although released just a year or two after the initial birth of this accidental/coincidental “genre,” (the overall consensus of artists like Washed Out, Toro Y Moi and Neon Indian is that they were all making similar-sounding music at just about the same time) is a dazzling first full-length by a still-fresh, still-viable force in electronic music.