Album Review: Washed Out – Mister Mellow (2017 LP)

It’s been four years since Washed Out‘s (Ernest Greene), last album; and boy has a lot changed. 2013’s Paracosm was a tuneful record of utter warmth and bliss whereas new album, Mister Mellow, is a 13-track thickly woven psychedelic tapestry of samples and arrangements with a full length visual counterpart.

Whilst this is keeping with Greene’s chillwave genre and albums-of-old, Mister Mellow aims to spotlight unintelligible noises and vocals.  Greene has foregone his pop-song approach to his orchestrations in favor of a full embrace of tantric explorations that are commonly devoid of a build or rise; four minute of ambient current that shift styles and genres numerous times each track.

A bar of Xanax lies below a ‘King of Chillwave’ cap and scores of smiley faces on the album cover and that seems to be the directive behind the album; to use scores of indulgent samples, noises and aesthetics to spawn an immersive, calm and relaxing environment. That happens most of the time, like in”Floating By” – the standout track from the LP where Bossa Nova melds with driving percussion that brightens into a sparkling choral collage. At other points, usually in the shorter 1 – 2 minute tracks of “Instant Calm”, “Zonked” and “Get Lost”,  the heavy use of confusing samples disorientate and do little to calm and ease your ears.

The video companion piece utilizes every form of animation from claymation to collage to stop-motion to hand-drawn and assists in complementing the patchwork constructed nature of Greene’s album and are entirely necessary to understand Mister Mellow. The videos help in providing an alluring narrative to some of the tracks where vocals are beyond obscured or entirely absent. Following drug iconography, “I’ve Been Daydreaming My Entire Life” sees Greene cut out and removed from old family videos and photos, only to be replaced by textiles and hypnotising palettes, before being again completely removed and scribbled over as he attempts to maneuver train carriages and urban displacement to the disco-esque drive of “Hard To Say Goodbye”.

Mister Mellow is Washed Out’s search for identity and self in the modern world. Perhaps the sometimes disorientating use of samples is intentional as the listener is now forced to feel the disconnect that Greene (and the characters in his video album) are encountering. For Washed Out, this identity is a continuation on the chillwave theme of albums prior, but with an unconventional shift towards alarming and disorienting movements that highlight how passive and peaceful Mister Mellows moments of serenity are.

Review Score: 7.2 out of 10.

Mister Mellow is out now through Inertia Music.