There's a fine line between laidback and just plain asleep, someone once quipped. This debut full-length from Ernest Greene - the Atlanta-born musician operating as Washed Out - provides plenty of irrefutable evidence to back the statement.
Listened to in the wrong state of mind, 'Within and Without' is a horizontal non-event that goes about its lethargic business with a dearth of energy that'd shame a sloth. Pick your time carefully (Sunday morning, late nights, sunny afternoons...), and its doggedly single-minded dedication to kicking back in the evening sun accumulates considerable powers of enchantment.
2009 EP 'Life of Leisure' catapulted Greene to the frontlines of a microgenre known as Chillwave, possibly the least promising tag to be slapped on a musical approach since Shoegaze, with which it shares a dedication to not breaking a sweat and preference for texture and slow build over the instant gratification of high octane theatrics. The beat-fuelled peaks and melancholy troughs of that deservedly praised release have been here discarded in favour of a more unified mood.
As a marketing gimmick, the idea to publicise the record by putting up special Washed Out beds as listening stations in selected record stores is unusually spot on. A blend of heavy-lidded pop songwriting, mainly organic, casually paced beats, Greene's three quarters asleep croon and luxuriously thick synth washes that take over the record's surface as unstoppably as rivers of molten lava, this is unhurried, richly textured and appealingly melancholy music made to be listened to horizontally. The nearest comparison to this sound would be Animal Collective and especially solo output by Panda Bear, although without the Beach Boys fixation or finger permanently parked on the reverb button, and with the discordant bits swapped for an unflinching mission to craft a caressing musical equivalent to the woozy feelings - fortified by unspecific undercurrents of loneliness and yearning - gained from spending too long in the blazing sunshine.
Admittedly this means that the tracks can come across as interchangeable, with few noticeable changes in the building blocks and tempo: describe one track, and you've pretty much summarised the whole lot. But what may at first seem like one-dimensional lack of scope eventually becomes an asset. Tiny movements - the way the soaring chorus hovers above the languid verses on 'Soft', the ever-present synths taking a breather on the title track - acquire impressive momentum as the album gradually sinks in its well-hidden hooks to the patient listener. If you're willing to accept a near-total absence of fireworks and fist-pumping rock action, you could well be in for an endlessly beguiling treat that soon becomes an integral part of the daily routine.