Ernest Greene’s second full-length as Washed Out, Paracosm, finds its influences in both paracosmic literature and Greene’s own move from Atlanta to rural outer Athens. Recorded on vintage keyboards like the Mellotron and the Chamberlin (tape-based proto-samplers featured on psych/prog classics like the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”) and augmented by occasional guitars, Paracosm plays like R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People, Greene’s first-ever music purchase, reenacted by a wistful one-man-band enamored with reverb and obsessed with escape.
As suggested by the glistening introductory single “It All Feels Right” and confirmed by “All I Know,” Greene is now writing fully formed songs to go with his ever-lusher soundscapes. The results are both dazzling and simple: Remove the twittering birds, the flickering vocal effects and all the synthetic paisley do-dads, and you’ve got a guy strumming his guitar beside an imaginary campfire, reminiscing about the old times. The softly funky bitter-sweetness of P.M. Dawn, another formative favorite of the 30-year-old musician, echoes through “Don’t Give Up.”
Much of Paracosm either reminisces over the past or yearns to retreat — no doubt a reaction to the pressures brought on by Washed Out’s rapid internet-enabled ascent. “We could sneak away and not come back,” Greene fantasizes in “Great Escape,” as woozy keyboards slip and slide from note to note like crying Hawaiian guitars. The album’s major musical motif is a fluttering harp, the kind that signals a dream sequence in old goofy movies and cartoons. Here it’s quaint and campy in the best way, like those fake birdcalls that hoot through the exotica classics of Martin Denny, another of the album’s aural touchstones. Nothing is real; there’s nothing to get hung about.