Paracosm is Ernest Greene's second full-length album as Washed Out and he's back together with producer Ben Allen. At first glance it may feel a little bit like business as usual for Greene, one of the first break-through acts from the chill-wave scene and along with Toro y Moi, one of its most successful alumnus.
Unlike Toro y Moi, Greene is yet to stray significantly from the genre that broke him, and Paracosm isn't set to change that. Everything contained within this album is wrapped up in the same dreamy ice cream sundae feel that Washed Out are known for. But that isn't to say this is a simple sequel to debut Within and Without, which itself felt like an extended and widescreen version of Life of Leisure (albeit with all new material). For every moment that feels familiar (the opening verse of 'All I Know' ploughs recognisable territory) there are moments that mark an expansion of Greene's sound.
The Washed Out approach has deliberately been changed up on Paracosm, embracing a range of instruments beyond his standard synth and computer combo. More than 50 different instruments feature on the album including a wide range of vintage keyboards, such as the Mellotron, which was featured on the Beatles' 'Strawberry Fields' and was constructed using pre-recorded sounds, with individual notes recorded for each key in the chromatic scale.
The result is an album that feels even dreamier, but grounded via a deeper sense of nostalgia that feels like the accumulation of dust in the groove of a record player and faded photography from your youth, like authentic versions of those hipster Instagram photos belched out into the world at a rate that dwarfs everything else the human race has ever created up until now. Of course, Paracosm isn't old or dusty, and so in some ways it is just the aural equivalent of those Instagram shots itself, only Washed Out feels modern and psychedelic at the same time.
In adding instruments to his second album Greene has added a crucial depth to his music, but it comes laced with complexity and a certain darkness. 'It All Feels Right' is trodden in grit and spectral patterns that create a spellbinding concoction, a little like Röyksopp remixing Tame Impala covering the Beta Band. 'Don't Give Up' reflects the inclusive DJ styles of the long-mourned Avalanches and, even closer still, Boards of Canada. Its analogue and manages to be boyant in it's willingness to place a bet on rusty production and elegant touches.
Where chill wave felt spent and empty Paracosm is richer. Faced with some subtle yet significant changes it is perhaps the future that is the most exciting element of Washed Out's new album.