PrintIn 2013, it’s easier than ever before to find new music. The advent of Spotify and the omnipresence of the Internet as a whole means that any new artist can record something with a reasonable degree of competency, and instantly expose it to millions of people with the click of a mouse. Despite the recent controversy over Spotify kicked up by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke (regarding the seemingly derisory amounts earned by the artists per play of their track) it remains possibly the most celebrated and subscribed medium of music consumption currently available.

I mention Spotify because this was where I first came across the Georgia-based Ernest Greene, otherwise known as ‘Washed Out’. Up until the slightly irritating most recent update, Spotify provided the ability to flit through hundreds of incredibly varied artists by clicking on the ‘related artists’ section. This has led to the unveiling of many a hidden gem that I simply would not have encountered otherwise.

Washed Out was one such gem; the bubbling, summery ‘Amor Fati’ from the album Within and Without instantly struck me as something above and beyond the swathes of bland synthy indie-pop that came rushing in after the success of MGMT’s ‘Kids’. It’s sparse and airy as opposed to the overblown and bloated fare of many of Greene’s contemporaries, allowing his songwriting ability to shine through.

Despite my affection for ‘Amor Fati’, I never properly listened to the rest of Within and Without. For one reason or another, (possibly down to my discovery of the frankly excellent Japandroids around the same time) I never went back to give the full album its due. Two years on from this first encounter, Washed Out is back with his latest LP Paracosm. This time I was determined to give it the time and effort I had neglected to offer its predecessor.

The first track, clocking in at just under 90 seconds, is a hypnotic, innocent, instrumental piece that serves as a prelude to the album opener elect ‘It All Feels Right’. It’s a lilting, uplifting piece, with the ambient bird-chirping and elegant synth painting an idyllic backdrop for Greene’s vocals to come to the fore. It’s got a very unexpected Supertramp feel about it, oddly reminiscent of the prog-folk outfit’s ‘Even in the Quietest Moment’. It’s certainly a notable if not extreme departure from the kind of ‘chillwave’ sound that Greene is most commonly associated with.

The whole album simmers along with that relaxed, patient approach that would seem to have become a hallmark of Washed Out’s catalogue. ‘Weightless’ has all the urgency and drive of a stoned hippo, gently swelling and falling in a pretty (if slightly uneventful) manner. One of the exceptions to this is ‘All I Know’, which provides a welcome kick up the arse at the midpoint of the album, and proves to be one of the stand-out tracks, motoring along with a sense of joy in abundance. A particularly interesting note is that here Greene seems to have chosen to sample a sound effect from that free pinball game you used to get on old PCs, although that might just be me…

The other real moment of quality is Paracosm’s penultimate number. ‘Falling Back’ is a real culmination of everything Washed Out gets right with this album. The lilting, uplifting feel exhibited on ‘It All Feels Right’, the swollen grandiose synths of the title track and the pace of ‘All I Know’ combine to form Paracosm’s zenith.

Whilst the credits roll over the appropriately titled final track ‘All Over Now’, there’s an opportunity to reflect on the album as a whole. It’s very good, for the most part. Greene has created something that’s a definite progression from his earlier sound, creating an LP that has a very clear and distinct sonic direction. There are some moments of genuine brilliance (‘All I Know’/’Falling Back’), but there are some lesser lights (‘Paracosm’/’Weightless’) that in parts make it sound like a compilation of Spiritualized B-sides.

Unfortunately, The realm of summery electronic music is currently a crowded one. Although Paracosm has its merit, It can’t quite keep up with the frontrunners of this years batch. Despite its quality, it doesn’t quite hold a candle to Jagwar Ma’s stunning Howlin, which (for the time being at least) seems to rule the roost as far as summery electronica is concerned.

It’s a shame, but for the time being ‘Paracosm’ will have to accept its place as a hidden gem rather than a leading light.

7 out of 11

Release Date 12/08/2013 (Weird World)

Sean Fitzpatrick

Manchester born noise-enthusiast with a compulsive need to write. I’m Currently stranded on the South-Coast in Brighton, but I return to the motherland whenever possible to bask in MCR’s incredible music scene.