Washed Out – ‘Paracosm’

Ernest Greene decides to stand and die by the chillwave fort as the entire genre collapses around him

Come the final analysis, chillwave will be seen as a genre that seldom outgrew its status as muzak for the Panda Bear generation. It was raised on a diet of the Animal Collective man’s ambient and warped Beach Boy sounds, but managed to say nothing to anyone about anything. Some of the acts branded with the chillwave tag, such as Neon Indian or Toro Y Moi, tried to resist it at every turn. Others just went with it. And although he was one of the later arrivals to the chillwave party, Ernest Greene, aka Washed Out, soon became the genre’s pin-up (as much as a genre chiefly created by anonymous-looking blokes in Aztec-print shirts from obscure American towns can have a pin-up). Gene Simmons he was not. In fact, he was a shy library science college grad living with his parents. His debut, 2010’s ‘Within And Without’, was enjoyable enough. But after a while you just thought, “Why don’t I put on something with a bit of heart instead?”

On this, his second album, Ernest Greene has a target on his back. How does he outrun that? The answer is simple: he doesn’t. He just stands and dies by the chillwave fort.

His approach to ‘Paracosm’ is an age-old one: do the same thing as before, but make everything sound pricier. There’s more live instrumentation, and ‘Entrance’ is promising with its classy hamper of incidental sounds that combine like nature’s orchestra pit tuning up. But then you hit first single ‘It All Feels Right’ and realise that it’s 2013’s answer to Morcheeba’s ‘The Sea’, and that whatever fine line there may have been between chillout and chillwave has long since been eroded. This is even more disappointing when you realise nothing here is of the calibre of Zero 7’s ‘Destiny’, even though the title track sounds like it might have been stretched from a wonky cassette of that song. ‘Falling Back’ wants to be Greene’s own personal ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, but is smothered by endless overdubs before it gets anywhere. And after a while ‘Paracosm’ becomes like trying to psychoanalyse a bloke who never finishes his sentences. Where it works is in flashes of production dazzle rather than whole songs: the slo-mo stabby synths of ‘Weightless’, or the clever use of channels on ‘All I Know’.

But mostly, ‘Paracosm’ is Chromatics if their nocturnal danger was replaced by nocturnal emissions, or Beach House if they got so stoned they forgot to change chords for minutes at a time. For a genre that was all about nostalgia for the recent past, it’s going to be hard to look back fondly on chillwave’s passing into history.

Gavin Haynes