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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