Now that the fervor over the chill wave has receded maybe we can sit back and evaluate the music for what it is (or isn’t). Whatever chill wave was – or is – it really only turned out 3 “bands” that I can recall: Toro Y Moi, Neon Indian (maybe my favorite), and Atlanta’s Ernest Green, aka Washed Out.
Within and Without represents Washed Out’s first complete album of new material as the first two EP’s are the summation of Green’s earlier recordings. This effort allows Green to dig in, taking the waves of muted synthesizer and 80’s new wave pop feel to a more expansive and complete body of songs. “Eyes be Closed” and “Echoes,” the first two tracks, establish a mood and the broader musical sensibility Green is communicating. It harkens the ethereal and slightly dark feelings of another one-man-band that gets it right, Active Child, with an emotive and even chilling sense of longing.
The third track, “Amor Fati,” which I think is Italian for I love fat chicks, picks up the pace and delivers a little pop gem in the vein of the Thompson Twins. This song, and the whole effort actually, conjure images of crazy hair and bleak English streets in a Joe Jackson / Human League video sort of way – the time when MTV ruled the world. I think it is that feeling, the ability to strike a deep emotional chord with a seemingly innocent pop song as some of the best 80’s pop did that draws me to “chill wave.” Or it could be the ability to capture that sound in a modern way that makes it emotional to me. Who knows?
I will admit that the first listen or two didn’t really grab my attention, making me lament the advent and conflagration of the ubiquitous guy and his computer “band” dominating the indie scene. As I listened the scope of the album settled in and I warmed to the concept. Something about it just feels like summer. “Before” is another excellent track and has a vocal sample that I can’t recall for the life of me (someone help me out here), and the album stays strong – with the exception of “You and I” which is kind of a yawner, through the beautiful outro of the last song, “A Dedication.”