Ever since his 2009 EP Life of Leisure, Washed Out’s Ernest Greene has been shrouding listeners in dreamy, reverb-drenched soundscapes that straddle the line between throwback new wave and forward-thinking electronica. Greene’s music has been known to swell and roll through an ocean of soothing samples, digital beats, hook-minded arrangements and slow-motion synths. It’s this methodology that has made Washed Out such an accessible and standout act. So when Greene capitalized on his strengths for 2011’s breakthrough LP Within and Without, it proved that the godfather of “chillwave” wasn’t just starting a trend but was building a foundation of something bigger and better. It was more than art; it was design.
Now Washed Out is back with a brand-new offering, Paracosm, which finds Greene dispensing another dose of sun-soaked synths, ambient hooks, digital beats and reverbed melodies that cling to you like smoke. However, while sticking to some tried and true practices, the album isn’t necessarily business as usual. Rather, Greene has taken his formula a step further on Paracosm, thanks to an expanded armory of instruments. Among the swath of computerized layers and MIDI-laden textures, he’s added live drums, guitars and bass to the record, as well a swarm of old-school keyboards (the Mellotron, Chamberlin, Novatron and Optigan)—all the while keeping the usual Washed Out tropes intact.
The expanded repertoire of instruments certainly adds something to the songs on Paracosm. The album feels warmer, more organic, less processed and, as a result, more sophisticated. The result is nothing less than a catchy feel-good summer album that’s crafted with plenty of attention, care and know-how. — Paste