Review: The Wistful Island Romanticism Of ‘Purple Noon’ By Washed Out

Washed Out | Purple Noon | SubPop

Release Date: 7 August, 2020

When the work of American singer-songwriter and producer Ernest Greene first entered the music world under his alias Washed Out, with his first (official) EP Life Of Leisure in 2009; the artist found himself in the midst of a popular emerging genre, as lo-fi beats and bedroom-pop producers began to find themselves recognised more so in the public eye for their distinct take on “chill-out” electronic music. 

The alternative, often trip-hop inspired beats of chillwave emerged and following its development over the years, can now be considered a genre umbrella term in and of itself, with Washed Out known as one of the pioneering artists at the time.

Over the years, Ernest Greene has made a name for himself as Washed Out without a focus on incessant releases; instead, the musician approaches each release with a clear vision and a spotlight on progression as an artist, with his incorporation of visual elements which accompany the albums’ narratives equally as important in portraying his works.

With the release of his latest album ‘Purple Noon’, released via Sub-Pop: Greene explores what comes across as more personal and melancholic themes as opposed to previous releases. While the artist still retains his signature chillwave-inspired personality as he has evolved over the years, the cited inspiration behind ‘Purple Noon’ speaks quite well regarding the nature of the album. 

With the title stemming from the 1960 romantic French film by René Clément which itself is based on the psychological thriller “The Talented Mister Ripley”, a novel by Patricia Highsmith; the romanticism, charm, passion and themes of loss run deeply throughout the album but are portrayed in a delicate and intricate manner, with the album retaining an easy-listening feel and lovely tranquil visuals, inspired by the coastlines of the Mediterranean and the island’s culture.

One of the most notable aspects of ‘Purple Noon’ is how prevalent Greene’s vocals are in the majority of the tracks, as opposed to the distant washes of reverb-drench vocals generally associated with the artist. For example, tracks such as ‘Time To Walk Away’ and ‘Paralyzed’ are very much harmony driven, with Greene’s kind, wistful vocal-technique and introspective lyrics taking the spotlight.

Time To Walk Away’s sunny disposition, shimmering with a light and airy atmosphere reminiscent of calm, relaxed days at the beach and minimalist, yet buoyant electronics juxtaposes ‘Paralyzed’ both in tone and theme yet retains a gentle fluidity. ‘Paralyzed’ is reminiscent of a candy-coated, yet passionate love ballad teeming with charm, with a slower, more gradual tempo allowing for glittering textural bliss in the dreamy, contemplative realm.

Game Of Chance’, ‘Don’t Go’ and ‘Haunt’ are stand out tracks on the album, as they show a rather different side to Greene’s composition, especially in the setting of ‘Purple Noon’ which is centered on the more tranquil serenity of an island setting, sprawling with grains of sands as reflective stars and emotive waves quietly lapping the shore. 

Game Of Chance’ cradles the focus on Greene’s velveteen voice and the compassionate melodies of an acoustic guitar. While atmospheric swells dot the track, the focus lies more so on Greene’s loving musings as a singer-songwriter as opposed to an electronic music producer – which was quite refreshing in its more ambient leaning sense of vulnerability and lack of lo-fi beats. Greene’s expression of Phil Collins‘ as one of his inspirations shines through in ‘Don’t Go’; the gradual yet powerful and dedicated percussion is an intriguing touch, accompanying twinkling electronics and an echoic sadness.

The closer, ‘Haunt’ reminds one of Greene’s earlier work as Washed Out; while the island feel of ‘Purple Noon’ is still prevalent, his vocals are not necessarily the driving force throughout the whole track. The harmonious relationship between 70’s & 80’s inspired traditional timbres and Phil Collins’-esque percussion, along with following crescendo of layered textures allow for a bold sense of experimentation to shine through, which in an album that flows seemingly effortlessly is an appreciated change.

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Rating: 6.5 / 10

Feature Image: Washed Out by Sam Prickett