Last night, Georgia's own Washed Out, perhaps best known for the theme song from Portlandia, played a triumphant set at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse. Dega, another band of ATLiens currently residing in Joshua Tree, opened.
Dega are a male-female synthpop duo who play in a style reminiscent of Sylvan Esso and Purity Ring - she sings, he produces the beats. It was a pleasant if formulaic sound, but we were turned off by the stage lighting, which consisted for their entire set of a single beam of light bounced off a static disco ball that shone directly into our eyes. We could barely see the band for the glare. It might have been an effective, attention-getting set-up in a small club, but if they want to tour and play the big stages, they need to up their game and engage the audience visually and not only sonically.
Visually engaging the audience was not a problem for Ernest Greene (Washed Out). Greene collaborated with Microsoft for this tour to blend his music with graphic effects using the Microsoft Kinect to produce an immersive live performance and a unique, psychedelic experience.
On top of that, Greene has revamped Washed Out's sound, amping up the former dreamy, chillwave sound to more energetic dance music. It's still definitely identifiable as Washed Out, but more awake and immediate that we've ever heard him before.
The band is now a trio, with Greene singing and playing pads, accompanied by a drummer and another pad player/guitarist. Both musically and visually, Washed Out now has more in common with Todd Terje or the current incarnation of Animal Collective than his former chillwave companions.
It was a great show. The songs were all tight and often surprisingly short - just when it sounded like they were about to launch into an extended jam-based exploration of some riff, the song would abruptly end and the band would jump into the next song. It was impossible not to be mesmerized by the kaleidoscopic, ever-changing visuals. It was hard to stay still and not start dancing to the music. A great show.
Here's a little taste of what Washed Out sound like now, and to compare and contrast, a sample from their earlier sound.