Washed Out – Paracosm

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For being one of the pioneers of the chillwave movement back in 2009 with the magnificent Life Of Leisure EP, Ernest Greene’s 2011 full-length debut Within and Without came a bit late to the game. Still, it was a wonderful record, full of layered synths and meandering hooks. He might have failed to replicate 2009’s masterpiece “Feel It All Around”, although a handful tracks displayed irresistibly catchy hooks that showed why Greene was the most vital survival of chilwaves downfall. With Within and Without, I imagine it was important for Ernest Greene to avoid getting stuck in a very narrow genre as chillwave, risking becoming just another relic associated with a genre that had its 15 minutes in the spotlight. Just as Toro Y Moi and Neon Indian found a sustainable purpose, Green showed that there was a way forward for his compositions, even after the light of the initial buzz has flickered out.

Two years further on and it was unclear where Greene would take his Washed Out moniker on his second full-length. Based on Paracosm’s first teaser, the stunning sunsplashed psychedelica of “It All Feels Right” and the notion that he used over 50 different instruments to record Paracosm, I was expecting something that heavily departed from his chillwave roots. “It All Feels Right” felt more like a full band effort, warm and organic, filled with woozy Flaming Lips psychedelia. But by the time Green released “Don’t Give Up”, which did little to forge any new ground in Greene’s discography; it became clear that Paracosm wouldn’t severely depart from his usual formula. Instead, Greene has found a steady footing – albeit lighter on the drum and synth pedals – and  more imbedded in subtle touches of shoegaze, psych-pop and organic.  “It All Feels Right” is possibly the best indication of the sound Greene was aiming for, while the title tracks lush harp-like synthesizers are amongst the most beautiful instrumental passages he’s ever crafted.  “All I Know” recalls “Amor Fati’s” all-embracing chorus, and last but not least the gorgeous pop-gazing of “All Over Now” that finishes off the album with a sentimental touch, with more than a nod towards Greene’s own classic, “Feel It All Around”.

In all fairness, Paracosm is a beautifully made, consistent record, but where Within and Without gave us a handful of stand-outs, many of Paracosm’s tracks float into one and other, leaving too little trace to leave a notable mark. There are too few captivating moments on here, too few changes has been made, too few experiments has been undertaken. Within and Without was in any aspect a better and more accomplished record, and Paracosm raises the question if Greene has reached the limit of his creativity or that his choice of a more pop oriented approach disrobes his qualities as a songwriter. Yet, while being a bit safe and at times uninspiring, Paracosm can still soundtrack any number of beautiful summer nights. But as a pop record, viewed in context of Washed Out’s former efforts – heck even compared to Greene’s former chillwave patrons latest albums – Paracosm unfortunately falls a bit short.

 

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