Ernest Greene, the creative force behind electronic pop act Washed Out, might be one of music’s unlikeliest stars. He was raised on a peach farm in rural Georgia and moved home after college when he discovered his career prospects were bleak. But after uploading a couple of his whimsical, homespun tracks on MySpace in 2009 — which were recorded late into the night while his parents were sleeping — he was championed by taste-making bloggers and signed to the cutting-edge indie label Mexican Summer. A whole genre of low-fidelity dance pop dubbed “glo-fi” (featuring acts like Neon Indian, Nite Jewel and Greene’s buddy Toro Y Moi) came in its wake, yet he never capitalized on his popularity by touring or promoting himself relentlessly. He married his longtime sweetheart instead.
Greene’s profile is sure to rise with first full-length Within and Without, and not only because it’s being released on iconic indie Sub Pop. Where his earliest tunes relied on bedroom production, Greene has gone big this time, teaming with Ben Allen, who’s produced records by similar studio obsessives Animal Collective and Deerhunter. The results are downright spectacular: widescreen, glistening jewels of sound that blend lightly propulsive funk with production that’s as mysterious and dense as a black hole. It’s a neat trick — Greene’s one of the few indie artists who could get a late-night warehouse party thumping or make a classical music snob analyze his gift for sophisticated melodies.
Greene isn’t one for lyrics — the few that peek through the layered production sound cribbed from some cornball self-help book — and the latter third of Within and Without drifts along like the most restful Xanax-induced sleep ever. But the album is frontloaded with “Amor Fati” and “Eyes Be Closed,” two of the finest tunes Greene’s ever written. The latter’s slow-building, soaring interlude alone might sap you of serotonin for weeks.