Published Jun 28, 2017For the uninitiated: Chillwave was a style of music that became popular around 2009, led by artists like Neon Indian, Toro Y Moi and Washed Out's Ernest Greene. After quickly becoming genre du jour, evoking nostalgic memories of summer with its dreamy, lo-fi electronic pop, chillwave became something of a punch line, falling of fashion as quickly as it ascended.
But just like fellow genre-leaders Neon Indian and Toro Y Moi, Greene hasn't let the demise of chillwave burden his career. His new record, Mister Mellow, isn't so much a revival of Greene's chillwave days as it is a refurbishment: he takes some of the more compelling elements of the genre and repurposes them in new ways. The vocals are still hazy, and there's a slight feeling of nostalgia, but Greene combines these with elements of free jazz, house and hip-hop, adding "chaos to the mix," as he puts it.
Mister Mellow is composed of what Greene calls "the strangest sounds and textures I could find" as a means of departing from more "traditional" styles of composition. The effect is jarring and harsh compared the lushness of his 2013 release, Paracosm, as demonstrated by the piano stabs on "Get Lost" clashing with the ambient sounds in the background.
But nowhere is this element of chaos more apparent than in the record's most notable feature: its visual component. Greene commissioned nearly a dozen different artists to contribute accompanying videos to the record's songs, featuring collage, Claymation and fabric puppetry. For Greene, the series of videos are "imperfect and distressed," and "a very skewed, impressionistic view of the world." They're disorienting, at times disturbing and very abstract, which basically makes it the perfect visual representation of the album. The record feels like it's falling apart at times, but there's beauty in its disarray — like its accompanying videos, it's hard to look away. (Arts & Crafts)