The intelligence of chillwave came and went as quickly as the tide lasted on the beach it lives on.
Washed Out is a one-man project of Ernest Greene that proved conducive to the upcoming and recent sub-genre of chillwave, a genre that sounds like a minimalist take on dream pop that lives inside the head of a drugged-out surfer constantly on the beach. With it’s acclaimed results on Washed Out’s earlier work, Life of Leisure, Greene has now released his full-fledged first album, Within and Without.
The soul of Washed Out’s genre comes from a very few ingredients: beats, song structure and mixing. This all ultimately produces the final product desired from chillwave: atmosphere. The slightest faltering in any of those ingredients significantly diminishes the work and while this tends to be true with many other genres of music, I especially point it out due to how much dependency the genre lends itself to within these elements.
There has certainly been an upgrade in Greene’s productions, the production value of the album feels bigger and the album feels a lot bolder, in a technical aspect. Ashamedly, it inadvertently counter-acts that bold quality by an array of very plastic-feeling and often meaningless beats and effects. This is perhaps the biggest letdown on the album as it tends to drag down the quality of atmosphere. Within and Without truly goes to show when artists successfully produce something out of a minimal array of tools at first and move on to bigger, expensive tools, their faults as an artist shine bigger as well. The sincere attempts to develop the sound into something more progressive should be appreciated, but the results leave an aftertaste that goes to show how minimal artists should continue their work through a comfortable creative environment where results come out successfully. From that success, progressive development will come internally and future works will come out thoroughly refined and not rushed.
Certainly, the entire album doesn’t fall in the shade of its faults; there are few tracks (You and I, Far Away, Before) that function individually and manage to create a textured, multi-layered atmosphere that holds many of chillwave’s high qualities. Other elements like the experimental vocal stylizing and song structure succeed in context of its very “lite” aura. This goes hand-in-hand with its sound mixing, which comes off as subtle in execution and rewarding in the end.
Within and Without functions blandly in comparison to previous efforts and other chillwave artists. It’s a tough statement since the release of this album is marked as a high point within the chillwave hub as a significant release from one of its more beloved artists.
It’s weak sauce for the folks already so lost in their own swoons for chillwave that nothing really matters anymore, only the mild-mannered trance.
This album was like being forced to drink only diet soda.