Ernest Greene defends escapism and a journey to new worlds on "Paracosm."
J.R.R Tolken made Middle Earth. C.S. Lewis made Narnia. Washed Out made Paracosm.
The title of Ernest Greene's second album as electronic (often branded chillwave) project Washed Out is a link among those fantasy worlds. A paracosm is an imagined place, sometimes described as stemming from a child's creativity. It's often expansive, containing its own languages and mythology like Tolkien and Lewis' series. Though Greene's undertaking is far less involved when compared to those tales, his fantasy world is just as interesting and exciting to discover. "I always thought of the record as a whole as a kind of 40-minute escape to this imaginative place, floating from beginning to end kind of like Alice in Wonderland," he explains. "Each song is a different episode of the daydream." Washed Out brings the daydream to the Republic on Friday.
Greene acknowledges escapism's constant presence in his songwriting, despite the term's frequently negative connotation. Escapism is often associated with checking out of reality, he says. "I've always kind of viewed it as a more positive thing. The freedom of the imagination, I don't know, that's kind of art for me, and music in particular. It has a special quality where it can take you places." The places Paracosm explores are dense but stay on the lighter side. It's a good trip, with each euphoric wave allowing for more exploration of the shifting sonics.
At that fantastic place's core is live instrumentation, an element mostly missing from Greene's previous, genre-shaping work. "I think if someone would've told me there would be acoustic guitar on a Washed Out track, I would've been like, 'You're crazy," Greene says. The introduction of live instruments not only enlivens the record in a way synths and samples haven't, but it signifies an evolution for Washed Out. "I like the idea of each record, and sometimes even each tour, approaching the songs from a different way," the Georgia native explains, a drawl hanging on his voice but absent from Washed Out songs. "Originally I got notoriety for doing a synth-heavy sound, and I wanna remain true to that in some ways, but I like the idea of trying new things."
Paracosm's "new thing" is apparent from the album's first proper song and single, "It All Feels Right." Richer live percussion backs the track, and the bass sounds like it's coming from strings — not a program. Soon that acoustic guitar kicks in, and the album takes a psychedelic ascent that never comes down, warmer and more organic than anything Greene has released. It's like a rock band tried to cover a song from Washed Out's debut Within and Without and did an excellent job. "That hits the nail on the head," Greene says. "I started working on the record using a completely new set of tools."
Washed Out's live show has changed with the album, adding the presence of a full band that still feels new to Greene. "I kind of miss recording [with electronics] in the sense that you don't have to reproduce a song," he says, adding that he's already working on new material that may be too difficult to play on stage. But Paracosm seems perfect for live interpretation in a show he calls "bigger and better." Greene wants to make the experience a pleasant one, adorning his live stage and Paracosm's cover art with flowers inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream. It may still seem like a dream for Greene, who has seen Washed Out grow exponentially since "Feel It All Around" made a splash in 2009, but it's hard not to trust his lead when his imagination has already served so well.