Sub Pop (2013) US
Washed Out is Atlanta-based producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Ernest Greene. Over the course of three uniquely enchanting, critically-lauded albums and an EP, the music he makes has proved both transportive and visual, each new effort inviting listeners into immersive, self-contained universes. With Purple Noon, his fourth album, and return to Sub Pop, he delivers the most accessible Washed Out creation to date.
For Purple Noon, Greene again wrote, recorded, and produced the entirety of the album, with mixing handled by frequent collaborator Ben H. Allen (Paracosm, Within and Without). Production of the album followed a brief stint of writing for other artists (most notably with Sudan Archives on her debut Athena) which enabled Greene to explore genres like R&B and modern pop for the first time. These brighter, more robust sounds made their way into the songs of Purple Noon and mark a new chapter in Greene’s growth both as a producer and songwriter. The vocals are front and center, tempos are slower, beats bolder, and overall, a more comprehensive depth of dynamics that has yet to be heard on a Washed Out record. One can hear the luxuriousness of Sade, the sonic bombast of Phil Collins, and the lush atmosphere of the great Balearic beat classics.
The coastlines of the Mediterranean inspire Purple Noon, and Greene pays tribute to the region’s distinct island culture -- with all of its rugged elegance and old-world charm -- and uses it as a backdrop to tell the album’s stories of passion, love, and loss (Purple Noon’s title comes from the 1960 film directed by Rene Clement, which is based on the novel “The Talented Mister Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith). Much like the romantic Hollywood epics, the melodrama throughout is strong -- a serendipitous first meeting in “Too Late”; the passionate love affair in “Paralyzed”; the disintegration of a relationship in “Time to Walk Away”; the reunion with a lost love in “Game of Chance.” Each Washed Out release has been rooted in a form of escapism, but coupled with this new layer of emotional intensity, Purple Noon takes Washed Out’s music to dazzling new heights.