Some records ask the listener for the right surrounding and mood before being played. This is the case with Washed Out’s Within and Without album. Taking the much hyped electronica subgenre called “chillwave” to new heights, Atlanta based 28 year old Ernest Greene crafted a record of ethereal and gauzy soundscapes that seems to be the perfect soundtrack to a quiet summer afternoon. There is a sun-bleached, hazy aesthetic to this collection of songs that can be in the same amount seductive and nostalgic, as if capturing a snapshot of fading distant summer memories.
But what separates the songs on Within and Without from the offerings of other chillwave maestros such as Neon Indian and Teen Daze? While in essence this is still atmospheric, diffuse dance music created on laptops, Greene’s songs comes across as fuller and as if reaching more to an almost orchestral synth-pop sonority. The sound seems less sequenced and more close to being played with live instruments and it becomes obvious on opening track Eyes Be Closed, with its echoing wall of synths, that Greene has the ambition to fill big spaces with these songs. At the core of the record there’s a bit of a push and pull game between electronic dance music and a more pop sensibility, ranging from songs clearly built on slow, intimate textures (as in A Dedication) to more single-worthy material based on traditional verse-chorus-verse structures and immediate appeal (check the irresistible Echoes). Surprisingly, Green is able to shift from one approach to the other, based largely on his vocals, still muffled and reverbed just about everywhere but with an element of seduction that make the atmosphere very involving. This is not a collection of random ethereal songs, something that we’re used to see on a genre that lives more on spare 7″ singles than in proper album offerings. By ignoring all the hype around him and actually taking the chance of leaping forward, Green has made an elegant, well crafted record that works as a whole. Overall, this is one lovely sonic road trip. (7,5/10)