Washed Out — “Within and Without”

From the moment that Ernest Greene’s vocals kick in on the open­ing track on With­in and With­out, his first album prop­er under the moniker Washed Out, you know exact­ly where you are. It’s the same ter­rain mapped out by Pan­da Bear on his most recent out­ing, Tomboy, the fol­low up to his just­ly laud­ed third album Per­son Pitch, from 2007.

Pan­da Bear is the guise Noah Lennox adopts when he’s not per­form­ing as one of the core mem­bers of Ani­mal Col­lec­tive, New York’s post-punk, indus­tri­al noise mer­chants. Their break-through 2009 album, Mer­ri­weath­er Post Pavil­ion was pro­duced by Ben H Allen, and it was to him that Greene turned when he was look­ing for some­one to pro­duce this, his debut album.

It’s not so much that you can join the dots between Mer­ri­weath­er, Tomboy and With­in and With­out. After all, Pan­da Bear has a very dif­fer­ent feel to the work that Lennox does when per­form­ing with Ani­mal Col­lec­tive. Where the lat­ter stim­u­lates and excites, the for­mer calms and balms. It’s more a sense that what you have is a group of very dif­fer­ent peo­ple who are all nonethe­less extreme­ly com­fort­able in one another’s com­pa­ny, and who all move to sim­i­lar beats.

Once you get beyond that open­ing track though, it’s not so much the East coast that you find your­self in as it is the Mediter­ranean. And the clear­est echo you hear is that of Groove Armada’s seduc­tive refrain “If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air, quaint lit­tle vil­lages just here and there”, which hummed across the whole of south­ern Europe for three or four sum­mers through­out the mid­dle of the last decade.

I’ve no idea where Greene and Washed Out go after this. It’s not so much that that whole Chill­wave sound has already come and gone. It’s more the sense that as a genre, it’s inher­ent­ly self-con­tained. Rather like a Waltz, it’s a joy to lux­u­ri­ate in when it’s done well, but there’s only so much you can take in one go, and it’s hard to imag­ine where any­one can take it subsequently.

But we don’t have to wor­ry our pret­ty lit­tle heads about that now. All we need to do is lie back, close our eyes and feel the waves lap­ping at our feet, as we sink into the sand on a for­got­ten beach in an as yet undis­cov­ered cor­ner of the Aegean. Expect to find at least one of these tracks turn­ing up on the next Hôtel Costes ablum, when­ev­er it is that the mag­nif­i­cent Stéphane Pom­pougnac gets around to com­pil­ing it.

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