The biggest surprise about Washed Out's 2011 debut was just how warm it felt. Buried amongst a clamour of too-cool-for-school hypnagogic popstrels Within and Without was a snug, amiable pleasure; the kind of record that greeted listeners with a beaming smile before dousing them in rich sonic textures and gooey melodies.
Whether that's what its creator Ernest Greene intended is another matter. But given the earthy, amoebic nature of follow-up Paracosm, it's safe to say he is still looking for a way to remove himself completely from the noxious chillwave movement.
Inspired by paracosmic literature—a smarty-pants way of saying "books about fantasy worlds"—these 12 tracks extend Greene's foray into amiable, slightly wistful electronic pop splendour.
Here, he builds a record that transmits inter-planetary feelings soaked in coruscating effects and pressureless atmospherics.
Each number moves as slowly as a sea of cushions. The gliding undulations of "It All Feels Right" make for a lilting opener that recalls Bradford Cox's more tender canticles; "Great Escape" is a gentle loll, built on graceful drifts of synthesizers; and the title track's haze of keys and strings melt at the sound of Greene's hushed calls.
With almost every track extending beyond five minutes, it can feel overstretched. The meandering "Weightless" never seems to wake up, while the nimble guitar lines of "Falling Back" fail to spark a final flourish. Yet in the pert jangles of "All I Know" there exists enough zip to prove Greene is capable of shifting through the gears when pushed.
While not as immediate as its predecessor, Paracosm emits the cozy glow of an artist happy to remain in a comfortable sense of stasis. Giving in to its charms is really all you can do. (www.washedout.net)
First published here for Under the Radar