There’s a moment about thirty minutes into Within and Without, Washed Out’s debut long-player, when the track shifts and a female vocal clips in, an echo of an echo buried deep within the mix. For twenty seconds or so it oscillates in pitch before it’s gone: just one tiny, understated section, easy to miss but once noticed lodged like a memory, faded but still warm.
This is an album made of moments like this, a patchwork of half-heard lyrics and electronic motifs blurring and distending like an alcoholic dream, and all too easy to dismiss on first impressions. These are likely to have formed before hearing a note: there’s the name, of course, and the album cover of a couple writhing on crumpled sheets, the title a slight smirk of innuendo, and the track names, ‘Eyes Be Closed’, ‘Soft’, ‘You and I’. Not since the dread racks of chill-out compilations festering the walls of motorway service stations like mould has there been such a desperate attempt at signposting genre.
Early listens do little to dent the creeping cynicism, either: this is an album with few hooks and little overt ambition, seemingly content to stay at the edges, quietly confident but never at pains to show off. The work of Atlanta’s Ernest Greene Within and Without takes a sleepy, drugged approach to synth-pop, minimal beats flirting with shoegaze vocals and introverted, slightly sad melodies, like a time-lapsed Ibiza at the end of the season. Hints of Memory Tapes and M83, Maps and Daft Punk vie with an insomniac 4am melancholy, streaks of first light appearing at the fringes of the sky.
Pinpointing individual tracks is pointless: with the exception of the piano-led closer ‘A Dedication’ there’s little between them, the 41 minute running time an ebb and mesh of recurring sounds. But this is more than just wallpaper, an after-party soundtrack for amorous grappling and steady come-down. Given enough time Within and Without becomes quite beautiful, with an intimacy and depth rarely found within a genre often accused of lacking a soul.