Within and Without (Sub Pop)
Washed Out’s Ernest Greene, the one-man band behind the widely acclaimed EP Life of Leisure, has been chief among the chillwave torch carriers (along with blog heavyweights like Neon Indian and Toro Y Moi), but his brand of chillwave is more immediate and physically engaging than that of his peers—built from the same mode of reverby, underwater synths and samples but more beat-driven and hooky.
For his full-length debut, Within and Without, Greene collaborated with tastemaker/producer Ben H. Allen, who’s manned the boards for both Notorious B.I.G. and Animal Collective. The guy knows a thing or two about beefing up a band’s sound (check his work with Gnarls Barkley and Animal Collective’s masterpiece Merriweather Post Pavilion), so his contributions on production and mixing are especially noteworthy here. Greene isn’t trying anything radically new on Within and Without, typically working the trademarks of his genre: spaced-out beats, mega-reverb, ’80s-styled synths and samplers working silky chord progressions underneath obscured vocal fragments. So Allen’s mighty wand-waving comes in handy, lending much-needed muscle to the snare kick on “Soft,” the crackly bass that propels the string-laden “Far Away,” and the mesmerizing trip-hop jungle that is “Before.”
While Within and Without works well as fragmented, easy listening, it’s a dish best served in full, and frequently—subtleties reveal themselves over time, particularly with a good pair of headphones. It’s one of the year’s most transportive albums—one that will surely come to define the chillwave moment, even as it breaks its own rules. (Has anybody written them down?) Greene’s oceanic drifting sure is impressive, but more importantly, there’s a heart beating underneath all that reverb.