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Within and Without
Washed Out Within and Without
Released 8 July 2011
Producer Ben Allen
Label Weird World
Length 40:39
Genre Indie electronic, chillwave
Website myspace.com/thebabeinthewoods

Chillwave, in all its blog trendiness, has characterised a certain amount of DIY bands over the past few years. Its heavy emphasis on effects, sampling, synth and filtered vocals can go one way or the other. For every Ariel Pink there is a dozen turgid examples of teenagers just wanking around in the basement, monged out of their spliffed up heads and producing a pile of noise crap. Shitwave indeed. For Ernest Greene of Washed Out, by biography alone things could certainly have went the wrong way but thankfully on his new record Within and Without, the signs are good for escaping the derogatory elements of the genre.

Gone are the bedroom Myspace days for the Atlanta native and in their place comes quiet ambition in the form of Sub Pop records and the production skills of Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter). Washed Out’s signature sound is based around a love of ‘80s electro pop and ‘90s sun-kissed dance that pull together around a melody. This melding is primarily what we get to great effect on the new album. Allen boosts the lo-fi sound with a slight sheen without going bombastic on it. The influences of the sea, summer and beach are evident throughout in the laid back party atmosphere created by Greene.

The album opens with a blast of exuberant synth and crashing beats on 'Eyes Be Closed' and 'Echoes'. The former has the high energy of Ibiza dance coupled with old electronica that establishes a bedrock for the murky but warm vocals to lay on the charm. This could be a faster version of The Orb or an indie lite Underworld. The latter has pop hooks in abundance which gather momentum through the well heeled dance drums to create a mellow summer feel. There is also a hint of Basement Jaxx albeit a relaxed one. 'Amor Fati' is the most upbeat number so far and has an almost psychedelic Baggy sound to it. This isn’t really a surprise as a lot of so-called Chillwave acts have professed an affection of everything from The Wedding Present to some of the edgier Madchester bands from back in the day. The track has a full booming sound but doesn’t yield to over-production at all. Its impassioned vocals shimmer to produce a warm fuzzy echo.

The record takes a less immediate twist in the ambient swirl of 'Soft' and the glacial whirlpool of keyboards on 'Far Away'. They are more like a comedown than the bluster of the opening part of the album but just as sweet supplemented with a melancholic edge.

'Before' is like aural nectar in that it extends the dripping keys of 'Far Away' and adds airy vocal samples that really take flight in the second half of the track. This is an album highlight in its mid tempo loops and dance beats. 'You And I', in the beginning, claws into the brain like 'O Superman' with its clipped female vocal samples. It is another sweet slow groove with a melodious synth repeating at intervals. This would be perfect for the long summer nights that are mostly imagined in Ireland. At least with Washed Out we can dream of exotic skies between headphones.

The title track keeps up the consistent drum patterns on the record so far. This percussion is the solid and underappreciated backbone that allows the synth and filtered vocals to pick up the plaudits. Indeed the summer breeze of the album may have been quite a mournful one without the even handle invested into the drums. In saying this, the track itself doesn’t keep up the same euphoric standard as the previous songs despite a sparkling synth outro.

The closer 'A Dedication' is the only time the vocals approach clarity. This is almost an ambient lullaby or something Bon Ivor or Eels could have composed at their foggiest. The polyphony of the keys near the end gives the album the perfect ending and produces a fitting comedown for the album.

Within and Without is a defiant example of Chillwave and much more than that. Ernest Greene has all the talent to break out of this self defeating genre and step beyond dreams of a sun drenched horizon into something altogether more real.

- Tim Gannon