Named after the term for a detailed imaginary universe, a la Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Georgia-based producer Washed Out’s second album, Paracosm, has been designed with the purpose of transporting the listener to another place for 45 minutes.
Following the birdsong that dominates opening instrumental “Entrance” and the summer party chatter that can be heard throughout several of its nine tracks, Ernest Greene’s follow-up to 2011’s Within & Without is more likely to conjure up images of a park full of hipsters than the land of hobbits, warriors and wizards.
But this simple idea of a naturalistic and idyllic fantasy world is in keeping with the warmer and more organic sound Washed Out has chosen to pursue the second time around. There’s still plenty of the dreamy synths that made him one of the chillwave scene’s leading players, most notably on the gorgeously echo-laden “Weightless” and closer “All Over Now,” a muted take on the epic 80s pop that became synonymous with the climaxes to John Hughes’ films. But they’re also joined here by an array of over 50 different instruments, all performed by Greene himself, making Paracosm a much more exuberant and less introspective listen than its predecessor.
Indeed, the sublime blend of woozy electro and shoegazing indie-rock on “Great Escape” and the equally warped psychedelic pop of “Falling Back” both recall producer Ben Allen’s work with Animal Collective and Deerhunter. Elsewhere, Flaming Lips fans alienated by the band’s recent foray into claustrophobic noise-rock could do worse than check out lead single “It All Feels Right,” a deliciously hazy blend of cascading harps, shimmering percussion and heavenly harmonies which channels Wayne Coyne and co. at their late 90s melodic peak.
Avoiding the pitfalls of most electro artists’ forays into acoustic territory, Paracosm is an enchanting and immersive sophomore which should fulfill Washed Out’s escapist intentions.