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Paracosm creates fantasy

Column by Abbey Maynard

Abbey Maynard-w2000-h2000Hello, world! My name is Abbey Maynard and I’ll be your music spirit guide this year — reviewing records , concerts and other things music related every Thursday. I have absolutely no music authority, I’m just a simple audiophile searching for stuff I like and occasionally writing about it.

As a second-year student, it feels a bit appropriate to review the sophomore effort of Ernest Greene’s band Washed Out.

Until recently, Washed Out has been best known for the use of their track “Feel It All Around” on the opening credits for IFC’s popular sketch show , “Portlandia.”

Perhaps more importantly, Greene has been a pioneer for an emerging genre of indie — “chillwave.”

Now, if you’re wondering what chillwave is, listen to the first six minutes of Greene’s new album “Paracosm.” Dreamy, airy and unpretentious vocals are paired with synthesizers and drum machines to create a down-tempo brand of pop. Even the title of the record gestures at a similar sensation.

Yes, I could discuss how enthusiastic I am about this record and Washed Out’s other work for a great while. But I’d rather write about what chillwave and Washed Out is doing to reshape music.

The soundscape Washed Out has created in their newest effort intersects at a particularly compelling point in music.

The rise of dance and electronic music —which can be simply illustrated by the radio presence of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” this summer — invites debate over talent, musicianship and origin of sound in the industry.

Whatever happened to the good ol’ days? Before the synth. Before drum machines. Before auto-tune. Yes, it is almost sure to say that music’s integrity has declined since the rise of auto-tune.

But I will also suggest that the new prominence of these instruments has created unique opportunities for sounds that could surely not exist without their creation, and I believe that it can be done with integrity.

Listening to “Paracosm,” I am shocked by how organic the record sounds, though the nature of the instrumentation beckons me to feel quite conversely.

Perhaps this is the aim of Greene —  to create a fantasy —  a paracosm if you will, that a listener so desperately wants to believe is true but knows cannot last.

The record goes so far as to include recordings of birds in several of their tracks, makes an obvious effort to sew together all the tracks (something that they do fairly well in their previous work, but do an even better job this time around) and has track names such as “Weightless” and “Great Escape.” Washed Out’s “Paracosm” attempts, and in my opinion, succeeds at creating something beyond a ‘few good tracks’ or even a beautiful soundscape.

The record creates a fantasy world filled with opportunity, emotion, wildlife, history, language, geography and beauty. The only job of the listener is to decide how long the fantasy continues.

Maynard is a sophomore English and study of culture and society double major and can be reached at abigail.maynard@drake.edu


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