Words and Photos by Andrew Parks
The last time Washed Out was in town, he split a hype-raking headlining set into two distinct sections: a sideman-backed series of night light ballads and a cruise control attempt at channeling discos from decades past. The latter was way more effective, as it got right to the root of why Ernest Greene’s quickly become one of the hottest unsigned commodities in indie rock. And that is his ability to translate the barely legal loft party thrills of underground dance tracks for kids dig Daft Punk and their Ed Banger descendants, but don’t know the first thing about Detroit techno, IDM and countless other strains of crucial-but-not-quite-trendy electronic music.
One thing the blogosphere got wrong about Washed Out is the direct line it’s drawn between Greene and robot rockers who hide behind million dollar pyramids. As neon-hued as his music is, there’s very little filtered house or French touch accents in his productions. Instead, he’s forging a very now blend of blissful/broken Hauntology hooks and mid-fi beats that reference everything from the vapor trails of the Cocteau Twins to the mirror ball-doused sound of Johnny Jewel (Glass Candy, Desire). And like many of the his close friends/contemporaries (Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi), Greene is figuring it out as he goes along.
Which means one thing, fellow writers and self-made critics: stop tossing around inherently lame terms like “chillwave” and “glo-fi,” and start giving these kids some breathing room. Because the Washed Out we watched at Mercury Lounge last night was quite different from the Washed Out we witnessed at CMJ. In a good way; a very good way. As was Small Black, the support slot band that backed Greene on songs like “New Theory” and “You’ll See It.” The changes in both are positive ones, too, as they figure out how to put on an actual show–Spencer’s Gifts lighting effects and all–and put all of their laptop-toting, late-’90s ancestors to shame. Don’t believe us, though; watch the following lo-fi clips and chime in with your love-or-hate comments…