Unbelievably, it’s been four years since Washed Out (stage name for American musician Ernest Greene) burst onto the indie electronica scene, spearheading a fresh, new genre of music, the aptly named chillwave. The genre relies on the heavy use of synthesisers in the production of lo-fi sounds, whilst creating music that simply washes over you, as the name suggests, like a wave.
Washed Out’s breakout track from 2009, Feel It All Around, is still a definitive track of the chillwave genre, which has since spawned a new wave of electronica artists such as Toro y Moi and Neon Indian.
The feelings and emotions explored through Washed Out’s music remain somewhat the same on his latest album, Paracosm, as they did on his 2011 debut, Within and Without. These feelings evoke images of spending long summer days by the ocean watching the waves crash upon the shore with the sun beating down on you. It may seem like a clichéd way to describe it, but this is exactly the sort of imagery and sensations his music captures.
Greene himself has described the album as “daytime psychedelic”, perhaps drawing on artists who have revived the 70’s genre of “psych-music” such as Animal Collective, MGMT and Australia’s finest, Tame Impala.
Each track (literally) melts into another as the euphoric, atmospheric melodies swirl around your eardrums. It’s incredibly uplifting and joyous throughout, and instantly puts you in a great mood, which increases with each listen. This is pure musical escapism at it’s finest.
The album is full of standout tracks, and aesthetically each song holds its own with competing dizzy, twirling synths and woozy, distorted vocals. There certainly is not a single dull track on the record.
Lead single It All Feels Right is a lush, exuberant track and keeps with the repetitive notion of ‘feeling’ the rather than ‘thinking’ that Greene so often incorporates into his work. Its wistful, majestic atmosphere is slightly rockier and more conventional than anything he has made before. The samples used from wildlife (notably birds) give the track an exotic feeling, and the distorted vocals and lyrics induce a giddy nostalgia.
All I Know begins with a sparkling crescendo that glitters as an atmospheric guitar riff plays underneath. It then attains a swift pace and rhythmic beat as Greene’s vocals drones as if he is singing with a heavy heart. The song may become slightly over constructed with its verses and repeated chorus, but the woozy dreaminess still remains with added atmosphere of more piano and guitar melodies.
The standout track of Paracosm is perhaps Great Escape, which adequately allows its listen to do just this. Just like Steve McQueen jumping over that fence on his motorbike (60’s film reference), you’ll be able to feel the sweet delights of freedom as you doze off into a blissed out dream. Swirling and spiralling around your ears, its carefree nature perfectly sums up the entire album.
Great Escape seamlessly seeps in the album’s title track Paracosm, apparently a homage to the fantasy worlds created by children’s imaginations. It is a nostalgic anthem full of magical-sounding strings and synths, sounding as though they belong in a modern day Land of Oz. The music is vibrant and lush, perfectly exhibiting the fantastical mysticism of the album.
Washed Out’s second album Paracosm has definitely lived up to the hype that surrounded it upon release. This is a perfect example of why Ernest Greene is considered the King of chillwave music. Blissful, joyous and sundrenched, it will be a perfect soundtrack to long days on the beach this summer.
This review was published on the website for SYN Radio Reviews