Washed Out is a mild-mannered-looking young fellow with the mild-mannered name of Ernest Greene who managed, via a handful of laptop-generated songs posted on MySpace in 2009, to give birth—inadvertently, of course—to an entire genre. Or maybe it was a sub-genre, or maybe it wasn’t really a genre at all as much as an ironically named, accidentally grouped cadre of bands who didn’t realize they entailed a movement until a blogger with nothing better to do pointed it out one day. And even though 2009 is ancient history now, in internet years, the semi-ironic, semi-concocted genre of chillwave continues to exist not merely as a point-of-reference label but, in a meta kind of way, as a symbol of both the artificiality of rampant sub-genre-ization and of the acceptance of the artificiality. Or something like that.
Anyway, okay: “Amor Fati,” Latin for “love of fate,” or, more to the point, “love of one’s own fate”; the phrase is Nietzsche’s, but hey, if the history of chillwave is too elusive for effective summary here, then forget about Nietzsche. I’ll stick to the song itself, which is a buoyant electronic concoction, achy melody atop a wash of synths, with something reverberant and inexact about the beat and something incomprehensible about the lyrics. Greene has said he doesn’t want his lyrics to be fully audible, that he’s after a mood, and wants the songs to take on life in a listener’s head. Objective achieved, but elusively: said mood is simultaneously hopeful and wistful, cool and warm, introspective and expansive, ’80s and ’10s. With hand claps.
I should note that after a couple of bedroom-constructed EPs, Greene was signed by Sub Pop. His debut full-length, Within and Without, released in mid-July, features a well-textured, fuller-fledged sound that might run counter to chillwave’s distinctly lo-fi origins, but to me illustrates a point always worth remembering: some who employ lo-fi techniques do so only of necessity, not out of philosophical conviction. Greene sounds like someone who deserves an actual studio. “Amor Fati” is the third track on the new album. MP3 via Sub Pop.