Washed Out – Within and Without

January 01, 1970

(Sub Pop)

 

www.subpop.com

 

Through cheap, readily accessible recording technology, the glossy
sound of heavily marketed 1980s phenomena like Phil Collins, the Pet Shop Boys,
or Peter Gabriel has become accessible to almost anyone. Most bedroom
recorders, however, aren’t up to the task. The grandeur of electronically
enhanced whooshes and crescendos easily overwhelms little tunes and quotidian
lyrics. There’s no hiss to hide behind, no badly tuned guitar to lay the blame
on, only a vast echoing wasteland of gated snare shots and synthetic swells.

 

That’s what makes Ernest Green, of Washed Out, so exciting. Within and Without is one of the most
beautiful and emotionally affecting albums of 2011 so far, effortlessly
balancing introspection and epic drama, quirky humanity and extreme electronic clarity.
There’s a drum fill in “Eyes Be Closed,” the single, that sounds like it was
ripped right out of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” but you can’t hate
Green for it when the song itself is such a pleasure.

 

Within and Without is
exquisitely manicured and spotlessly clean. Green’s voice is often the only
identifiably organic sound in the mix, its vulnerability at odds with the sleek
sonic palaces that surround it. He’s the ghost in the machine, the uncertain,
melancholic element amid rampant sensuality. He sings in a modal hush on “Far
Away,” his whispers floating like a monk’s chant over pounding, throbbing,
glistening beats, making a serene center in the midst of hedonism. Just after,
in “Before”, a clip of a woman’s voice — unreadable, possibly African, too
brief to act as anything but a rhythmic element — punctuates the beat at the
end of every four measures. You find yourself anticipating this eccentric
fillip as the song goes on, its brightness piercing a cool, aquatic
slipperiness like sunlight through a coral reef.

 

Those human elements – the doubt, the vulnerability, the sudden flashes
of individuality – give Within and
Without
its soul. Its physical presence, which is equally important, comes out
in the inexorable beats that lift and propel these tracks. And then there’s the
sex – an Avalon-caliber sensuality,
not to mention the racy cover – which could turn this into the make-out album
of summer 2011.  It’s not often that an
album has this much to offer, intellectually, physically and spiritually.  This is not just another sterile bedroom
disco experiment, far from it.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Eyes Be Closed”,
“Far Away”, “Before” JENNIFER
KELLY

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