Review Summary: Ernest Greene presents Within and Without, a new fragrance from Washed Out, a pleasant aroma that refrains from being too obtrusive. Or, for that matter, interesting.Within and Without
is the quintessential chillwave record, existing in that gorgeously amniotic headspace that was so fashionable two years ago. And since the hazy sonics of the scene have been in hibernation for most of the year (save for Toro Y Moi's pretty-good Underneath The Pine
), Washed Out's first full-length proper has the benefit of sounding like a refreshing change of pace. If he doesn't deviate from the chillwave formula of enormous and lightly overdriven drum machine beats, layered woozy synths, a generally psychedelic atmosphere, and disembodied vocals, so be it - he practically invented the formula, back when the style was in its nascent stages, and made an effective case for it with his debut Life of Leisure
EP. Besides, the formula is pretty enjoyable, as shown on album opener "Eyes Be Closed", a gorgeous piece of hypnagogic pop with a BPM just too slow to properly dance
that still demands the body to move. When the track was first released a couple of months ago, it was extremely promising, suggesting that Greene was taking the distinctive elements of his earlier material and fleshing them out more fully.
Here's the thing, though - as good as "Eyes Be Closed" may be, it's a really thick listen, the kind of song best enjoyed when lying down on a balcony when it's 96 degrees outside. For Within and Without
to be successful as an album
, Greene would have to provide some variety for his listeners. Aside from the happily sparse construction of "Far Away", the record seems content to wallow in formless sonic textures. Undeniably beautiful ones, mind you, but mere textures nonetheless. This stuff lacks that oft-overused term: substance. Paradoxically, it feels slight in its constant, oppressive heaviness. "Amor Fati" and "Before" are both decent enough songs on their own (the latter particularly deserves mainstream success, perhaps in the form of a car commercial - hey, if Sleigh Bells could do it, so can Greene), but they're so similar to one another that when placed on the same tracklist, they cancel each other out, rendering both songs somehow lugubrious. Worse, the close proximity of these nine songs highlight all of their less desirable qualities and none of their appealing ones; my ear is drawn to Greene's fondness for mind-numbing repetition instead of his commendable talent for creating pretty spaces that his voice can swim aimlessly around. And so Within and Without
is a considerable disappointment, ultimately sounding like a slowed-down Tiësto record, bobbing along with little or no sense of actual direction.