Hype has been a part of Ernest Greene of Washed Out's musical career from the very start. After releasing a few songs through his MySpace back in 2009 for mere fun, a worldwide outpour of admiration from music bloggers everywhere was sparked, making Washed Out the biggest Internet hype sensation we had seen to date. Then, following the release of his debut EP Life of Leisure, Washed Out's name became even more of a buzz, being elected as the chief poster boy for the highly debated chillwave movement. It was a lot to put on the shoulders of a young musician, and as any music enthusiast will tell you, with overwhelming hype comes enormous expectations. So when Ernest Greene announced that he would finally be releasing his debut full length this year, many saw this as the make-or-break moment for the artists career. Will Washed Out live up to the hype, or will he prove to be, well—washed up? Lets just say sometimes, buzz doesn't always lead to disappointment.
First of all, describing Within And Without as chillwave would be wrong, and almost insulting. With the new LP, Greene dumps the lo-fi electro grunge sound heard on his previous EPs in favor of a much more laid-back, summer pop vibe. Rather than having heavy reverb synths and processed sounds be the nucleus of his songs, Greene goes for a much more organic makeup, constructing them to be more wide-ranging and full sounding. It's a much cleaner sound that might disappoint those who enjoyed the internal haze on his previous works, but this honed production proves to be what elevates Within and Without to greater heights.
Ben Allen, the album's producer and also the man who helped Animal Collective beef up their sound for Merriweather Post Pavilion, is probably to blame for Washed Outs sharper tone. But whats great about Within and Without is although it takes on an increased professional approach, it still embodies all the great things that made us fall in love with Washed Out in the first place. The record is unmistakably dreamlike, filled to the brim with distorted, echoing synthesizers and soaked with drowsy vocals. Over the course of the albums nine tracks, Greene never really changes gears, moving from one relaxed tune to the next. On the upbeat "Amor Fati", Greene takes advantage of this slow summer feel, breaking synth notes apart and then reforming them again, all while his voice swells immensely in the background. The track "Soft" also follows this suit, melting in a romantic lush with its tender synth shiverings and low tempo beat. It seems that on Within and Without, Greene realizes the importance of vocal work. Where songs used to get by with predominately an electronic core, the new LP features Greene focusing on connecting with listeners on a much more human level, pulling them in with his voice, not his production. Overall, these new qualities give the songs on Within and Without a greater unified feeling, making Greenes LP debut a very polished and refined piece of work.
Within and Without is by no means a perfect album. One of the downfalls of every song having the same laid-back feel is that there isnt a single track that particularly stands out. It lacks that significant kick which seems needed to propel it into greatness. And while ambient haze that overcasts the LP is undeniably relaxing, it can get tiresome to listen to for nine tracks straight. Despite these few minor impurities though, Within and Without remains a remarkable debut for an equally stunning musician. The record is an excellent demonstration of what happens when, even after the internet hype cycle has faded, one continues to explore their own potential and capabilities.