The music recorded by Ernest Greene as Washed Out has been nothing if not dreamy, but for his second full-length, he's taken the idea of letting your mind wander to another state a huge leap further. On Paracosm, due out Aug. 13 on Sub Pop, the Georgia-based musician explores the album's namesake phenomenon, where people create detailed imaginary worlds. The concept has been used to describe fantasy lands like Tolkien's Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis' Narnia, and it's at the heart of the 2004 documentary In The Realms Of The Unreal about outsider artist Henry Darger.
The idea of escaping is all over Paracosm's lyrics, and it's also the main thrust behind the music, which finds Greene distancing himself from the modes and methods that informed Washed Out's previous recordings. No, he hasn't thrown away his computer or synths, but Greene made a conscious decision to expand his sonic palette, which resulted in the employment of more than 50 different instruments, the most significant of which turned out to be old keyboards like the Mellotron, Chamberlin, Novatron, and Optigan. Designed during the middle of last century and made up of prerecorded sounds with individual notes sampled for each key of the chromatic scale (the flute sound in The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" is a well-known example of the Mellotron in action), these relics allowed Greene to use his sampling expertise while also offering the flexibility to explore new creative avenues.
"I've grown as a songwriter to the point where I want to have more involved arrangements, and that's really hard to do with sampling," says Greene. "These machines were kind of a happy medium: The sounds have a very worn, distressed quality about them, much like an old sample. But they also offer much more flexibility because they're playable. Pretty much all the keyboard sounds, and strings and harps and vibraphones—all of that comes from these old machines."Washed Out Facebook