On previous releases, Washed Out has been labelled with attempting everything from punk to dance-pop. Starting in 2009, but with limited releases, it’s always been a little bit of a surprise when the releases have surfaced, particularly when they arrive on vinyl before the popularity saw it’s resurgence or even on a cassette, I’m not sure ‘hipster’ carries a phrase to the USA. Mister Mellow however, is a blend of its formers, but has the time spent affirming direction given any positives?
Title Card, is exactly what it states. The opening track of the song is a simple 30-seconds of soft psy-trance synth with a hacking cough in the background. Considering the more ‘stoner’ edge that Washed Out is known for, one can only imagine what that could possibly allude to. Flowing directly on to the next track, Burn Out Blues, the shoe-gazing style comes right out the fore. With twinkling synth samples being layered over a heavy, sluggish bassline with a simple drum beat keeping the dreamy pace, with some heavily reverbed vocals, you’re left with a track suited to lying down, in a hammock, with your head off the edge, upside down. It’s summery and strange and continues to tail off into the following, more minimalist track Floating By, by way of a minutes interlude (that I definitely failed to notice until checking the track listing again), the aptly named Time Off. Floating By, is a simpler track, a basic, muffled drum beat simply sits underneath a muted strummed guitar and even a little heard glass celestica.
The hacking cough from the opening track features back again as we are led into I’ve Been Daydreaming My Entire Life. The song’s melody is a little unsettling due it’s mix of a discordant synth at the rear which has been overlaid by myriad instruments from maracas and bongos to strange spring noises and sampled vocals looped over the reverbed speech that is typical of Washed Out’s (and indeed shoegaze in general) style.
Hard To Say Goodbye, is one of the album’s few ‘full-length’ tracks, at just over four minutes. It’s here we can really start to notice the engineering of the album as a whole, each track flows on from one another, and with each track change, it keeps a little of the preceding track, and brings a little something new. In this instance, the strange mix of instruments has been gradually replaced with a drum and bassline that can only be described as funky. However, the discordant, eerie synth remains. Whilst this could easily be a point that undoes the album in the cases of most bands, Washed Out is not most bands. The strange ethereal soundscape and samples retain an air of performance as opposed to an album. The bridging track, Down And Out, is unsettling, with allusions to insanity in the clipped, twisted sampled vocal snaps.
We are carried on the weird and wonderful wave of soundbites into Instant Calm, which is anything but what the title states. The most I could do to state how the song is likely to feel, is that it is an itch that cannot be scratched. The lazy, sliding guitar and thudding bass drum tries to lull you into a sense of peace, but the retained synth from previous tracks is still present, keeping a feeling of uneasiness seated deep in the core of the track.
Thankfully, after an old-school track rewind sound effect from the bridging track, Zonked, we are taken into a far more upbeat track, Get Lost. It feels like a summer party has been sampled as the main melody. A bassline that you feel more than hear, groups chatting, sirens blaring at one point (who’s party hasn’t gone that way at some point?) and dreamy vocals that feel as though they’re all around, as opposed to a direct vocalist on a stage. The final bridging track, Easy Does It takes us into the final track, Million Miles Away. The song is the perfect track to tail off the album. It has none of the unsettling nature of the middle album tracks and feels like the end of the journey (or trip if you prefer) that the album seemed to be intended to be.
Shoegaze is a tricky genre to master, it can sit at ambient levels and feel like nothing but background noise, or it can be similar to Sinkane and try to cross the bridge into pop. However, Washed Out have managed to sit themselves at the epicentre of the movement, and are all the better for it. The album is stunning, cover to cover there isn’t a weak moment, and I came into it extremely apprehensive. It’s never going to have a standout track, as everything flows on from one to the next, but at only 29 minutes, it’s half an hour you’d be glad to spend.
Author: Steve, Southgate store