Ernest Greene cites some unlikely influences for Washed Out, his mellow musical project.
"At its core it's psychedelic music," says Greene, whose debut EP (2009's "Life of Leisure"), and first full-length release (2011's "Within and Without") lit up the blogosphere and put Greene in the first class of a new micro-genre, colorfully known as chillwave (see also Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi or Memory Tapes).
Greene also explains that being a hip-hop enthusiast helped him to develop a producer's ear, as he was led into sampling by the obscure disco/soul/electronic records that many of his favorite hip-hop acts were sampling. Soon he was sampling himself, creating his own musical mosaics by adding various textures to his original tracks.
"It kind of breathes life into it and gives a warmth I couldn't get from running instruments into my computer," says Greene, speaking from his home studio in Atlanta.
While "Within and Without" leaves behind some of the grittier, more soul-flavored elements of the Washed Out debut's quintessentially chillwave sound (imagine a cross between underground hip-hop/electronic and new wave), the album still maintains enough of the soothing melodic backdrops and indistinct, faraway vocals to justify its genre's namesake. Greene's newer sounds fulfill more of a classic synth-pop aesthetic. It’s not hard to hear the echoes of Flock of Seagulls and Howard Jones in the '80s-styled layers of tracks like "Amor Fati" and "Eyes Be Closed," which even features those infamous MTV-era artifacts, roto-tom drums.
"It's more about a mood or a vibe than a modern day radio hit, which is all about being very clean and perfect sounding," he says.
Feel it all around
Musically, Greene finds a major guiding hand in Canadian contemporary psychedelic artist, Caribou (Daniel Snaith).
"It takes a lot of skill to have that much going on in music and make it sound really balanced," says Greene of Caribou’s blend of '60s pop and sampling.
Greene isn't the only fan; Caribou will open for Radiohead next month.
Driven to move sound forward, Greene even describes a moment when he himself felt musically beaten to the punch-namely the2007 release of "Person Pitch" from Animal Collective's Panda Bear.
"I loved it and hated it at the same time," says Greene of the 2007 mesmerizing and childlike LP, which he calls "powerful and simple."