- Sub Pop
By Erika Harwood, Daily Arts Writer
Published August 16, 2013
Somehow, Washed Out made chillwave go even chiller on Paracosm, the second full-length effort from the man behind the moniker, Ernest Greene. As of late, competition within this pseudo-genre has become fierce, with artists like Youth Lagoon and Greene’s old college pal, Toro Y Moi (among others), releasing solid albums this year. Despite an attempt to strip down to a more natural sound, with Greene taking advantage of more than 50 instruments throughout the record, Paracosm reads like classic Washed Out minus a couple of laptops and plus maybe a wind chime or two.
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From the opening track, appropriately titled “Entrance”, Greene’s efforts for an organic sound can be noted with his fresh samples of chirping birds and angelic harps. Unlike Within and Without or Life of Leisure, both of which burst from layers of computer- heavy beats, “Entrance” defines Paracosm as an attempt for a low-key, fresher sound. Not a futile undertaking altogether (a real guitar can be recognized on “It All Feels Right” and he opens the album with actual animal noises), many of the tracks retreat back to the bubbly, summertime vibes of Washed Out past.
“Don’t Give Up” starts and ends with the muffled chatter of a crowd as it builds into what could be the theme song for another hipster-centric IFC show. Greene mumbles through the lyrics, maintaining the lo-fi aesthetic even more, forcing a stronger focus toward the instrumentals. As he told Vogue, “I’m a producer first, a songwriter much farther down the line”, which is not exactly the world’s most surprising sentiment. Despite this, the full and lush sounds on tracks like “All I Know” suck you in and make you believe wholeheartedly in whatever Greene croons.
But lest we forget the all-present curse of the chillwave genre: After a while, the tracks begin to melt into one another, becoming impossible to discern individual songs from the white noise you turn on after popping that late-night Ambien. “Weightless,” and even the album’s title track, fall victim to what appears to be an almost unavoidable circumstance. Whether its cause stems from the more ethereal synths or Greene’s I-just-woke-up-and-still-feel-drowsy vocal style, these tracks slow down the album ... but that could very well be the point. To be fair, the white noise of Washed Out far surpasses the less than bladder friendly sounds of crashing ocean waves, so it could be worse.