Washed Out: “Amor Fati”
New Music Monday this week brings the atmospheric, dream-like sounds of Washed Out, which, in the same fashion as Tune-Yards, is actually the stage name of Georgia native Ernest Greene (a name that on its own could only have worked in the realm of bluegrass — and speaking of which, look for an Earl Scruggs tribute song tomorrow).
Anyone who has watched IFC’s comedy skit show Portlandia has heard the music of Washed Out — the show’s theme is “Feel It All Around,” from Washed Out’s 2009 debut EP, Life of Leisure. That song gives a pretty good taste of what Greene does in Washed Out — “dreamy” really is the best way to think of it. The sounds wash over you in a way that is simultaneously calming and dramatic (“dramatically calming” music?). I’m not necessarily a huge fan of all atmospheric music, but when it works well, it works really well, as in the music of Air, and in many of the songs of Washed Out.
Washed Out’s first full album, Within and Without (a reference to the Beatles’ “Within You and Without You,” possibly?), is a successful updating of Greene’s sound (his first EP was recorded at home, while this one was done in a studio). It’s thoroughly consistent in its vibe, to the point of one song sometimes being difficult to distinguish from another, but it’s a great sound. Greene seems to draw inspiration, whether directly or not, from Avalon-era Roxy Music’s lush songs. In some ways it works best as background music, but one song that stands out above the rest is “Amor Fati” (a Latin phrase meaning “love of fate”). It’s a track with vocals, but they serve mostly as another instrument — words can be made out, but as with the rest of the song, they seem to be fleeting elements in a dream. The melody is truly breathtaking — I don’t think I’ve had as visceral an experience with a recent song as I did when listening to “Amor Fati” the first few times. Something about the sweep of the song very literally, in fact, took my breath away. It feels like it’s from another planet — albeit one that sprung to life in the late ’70s and early ’80s — at some point in the future, sent back via interplanetary transmission through a wrinkle in the space-time continuum. After all that effort to get it to us, it had better be good, huh?