Album Review: Washed Out – Mister Mellow

Having already cemented himself as the original pioneer of chillwave, Ernest Greene today releases the most ambitious and grand of his projects to date. A twelve-track album and Washed Out’s first in four years, Mister Mellow sees Greene match his unmistakable sound with a striking visual counterpart.

Introducing a billowing shift back towards a psychedelic, sample-heavy sound, Mister Mellow is that bit more kaleidoscopic, scrappy and spirited than recent releases. Greene’s move from Sub Pop to Stones Throw is in line with an abundance of bungled vocal samplings and loose hip hop beats, but it’s all amalgamated with an untamed vibrancy and warmth particularly reflected in the visuals.

An array of animation, including collaged stop-motion, claymation and hand-drawn cartoons, buzzes and/or glides in line with the tempo and feel of the tracks. Packed with pastel yellows and mellow browns, the scrapbook-esque artwork is as charmingly DIY as the record production itself.

Greene, with his array of artist contributors, does well to seamlessly match a psychedelic nostalgia in certain tracks with the accompanying visuals. This works with particularly strong effect on “I’ve Been Daydreaming My Entire Life”, a hazy, atmospheric song matched with old photos of Greene growing up – his skin and face blocked out with vividly jolting, colourful patterns. It’s an effect that’s used similarly on “Hard to Say Goodbye”, a sprawling nu-jazz track reminiscent of some of Mr. Scruff’s best work.

Full of brief, hallucinatory interludes, Mister Mellow is bound together by some of Washed Out’s most effective, vibrant songs to date. Perhaps the strongest of which is initial single “Get Lost”, a pulsating, sensuous deep house track matched with cut-out collage images that brilliantly depicts the “unintentional psychedelia” present in the vapidity of modern mainstream culture. It’s a disorientating but undoubtedly captivating album highlight.

The project as a whole is an ambitious one, and despite not necessarily having a vividly tangible discourse or message on a first listen, it stands alone as a hugely enjoyable – and at times mesmerising – audio/visual experience.