Washed Out

Paracosm

According to Wikipedia, a paracosm is “a detailed imaginary world, or fantasy world, involving humans and/or animals, or perhaps even fantasy or alien creations. Commonly having its own geography, history, and language, it is an experience that is often developed during childhood and continues over a long period of time: months or even years.” Or, in the case of Washed Out’s latest album, about 45 minutes.

The fantasy begins immediately: the distant twittering of birds, a dreamy synth, and a languid vibraphone melody, then the plucking of a harp and enchanting female voices usher in a cool, tropically influenced drum-machine beat and Ernest Greene’s smooth voice, which croons distantly over an ascending bass melody and shuffling rhythm — the sound panning between right and left channels to disorient and envelop the listener. Greene is the foremost purveyor of the so-called chillwave sound, and his second album, Paracosm, shows no signs he’ll give up his title anytime soon. This time around, Greene employed a larger arsenal of instruments (more than fifty), including vintage keyboards like Mellotron, Chamberlin, Novatron, and Optigan, giving him a lusher, more varied sonic palette to work with.

The sounds are otherworldly, indeed, but that doesn’t prevent tracks from being utterly dance-floor-worthy. Greene has a particular knack for creating soundscapes that are equally appropriate for the open road or the club, but it’s his floating, yearning voice that provides the necessary humanity. It’s a strange sensation to feel nostalgic about something you’ve just heard for the first time, but Greene succeeds with aplomb. (Sub Pop)

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