Atlanta-based producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Ernest Greene's project Washed Out blends the layered synths and quietly chiming guitars of dream pop, the hypnotic rhythms of bedroom electronica, and his gentle croon of a voice and adds them to songs that are as calm and comforting as a soft blanket. His first EP, 2009's Life of Leisure, helped define the chillwave genre, and his song "Feel It All Around" became a ubiquitous classic. Everything he released subsequently -- whether it's influenced by psychedelic pop (2003's Paracosm,) hip-hop (2017's Mister Mellow), or modern pop (2020's Purple Noon) -- builds on his initial style without changing the elemental laid-back tenets of the Washed Out sound.
Greene had been involved in a number of musical endeavors by the time he started putting together a series of recordings as Washed Out in the summer of 2009; he had worked on a similarly noisy and computerized (albeit far more guitar-heavy and fast-paced) bedroom recording project called Lee Weather. He had also worked on a series of dance music recordings with a local band in Columbia, South Carolina called Bedroom. Washed Out's initial offerings -- drowsy, distorted, dance-pop-influenced tracks that brought to mind Neon Indian and Memory Cassette -- would reflect the influence of both of these projects. Mexican Summer digitally released Washed Out's debut EP, Life of Leisure, in mid-2009; it was released on vinyl in October of that year. A limited-edition cassette-only release, the High Times EP, came out on Mirror Universe that September.
Big things happened in 2011. His song "Feel It All Around" was picked as the theme music for the Fred Armisen/Carrie Brownstein TV show Portlandia, and Washed Out signed on with Sub Pop. Greene's debut full-length, Within and Without, was recorded in Atlanta with producer Ben Allen, who had previously worked with Animal Collective and Deerhunter; it was released in July. After a long time spent touring behind the album, Greene moved out of Atlanta and relocated to a rural area outside of Athens where he could spend all day in an isolated environment making music. Influenced by the bucolic setting and the use of a wider range of vintage synths, Washed Out's next album, 2013's Paracosm, was much warmer and optimistic-sounding.
After the release of the album, Greene took a step back and began to reconsider the direction Washed Out was headed. When he reappeared in 2017, it was with a new label, Stones Throw, and a visual album that stripped away some of the ambition of the previous two albums in favor of a sound that harked back to Washed Out's early chillwave days, but with a more assured production style and heavy hip-hop influence. Made with the help of mixing engineer Cole M.G.N., Mister Mellow took two years to complete and was released in June of 2017. Greene took a step away from Washed Out to write and produce some of Sudan Archives' 2019 album Athena before heading back to his bedroom studio to record new material. Unlike the previous two Washed Out records, 2020's Purple Noon isn't a genre exercise; instead, he leans into the smooth sounds of chillwave and gives it a modern pop polish.
© Tim Sendra /TiVo