Monday, June 26, 2017

And Where Do You "Where To?": Washed Out @ The Microsoft Lounge, Venice Beach

Earlier this month, I was invited to the Microsoft Lounge in Venice to check out brand new tunes from recording artist Washed Out.

Microsoft’s Music x Technology initiative, which is all about showcasing recording artists who use Microsoft technology to create music, took over the indoor-outdoor space to host the event, “Washed Out: New Album Release & Live Show Experience.”

We were treated to a sneak preview of Washed Out’s latest project and his third record — a visual music album entitled Mister Mellow, that will be released on June 30.

-- [Side note: New to Washed Out? Listen to some of his music here.] -- 

The affair was super classy, very millennial, definitely artsy and hipster. Bartenders made fancy craft cocktails; servers passed lavish out hors d’oeuvres, like bite-sized crispy pork belly on maple buns. About a hundred or so guests mingled on the patio and in the lounge area that had a modern-meets-nature feel — think soaring ceilings, exposed bricks and scores of Microsoft TV and tablet screens of all sizes — everywhere.

The highlight of the night was twofold: 

1) To hear from the team that helped bring Mister Mellow to fruition — including Microsoft exec Amy Sorokas, Washed Out (a.k.a. Ernest Greene) and his creative team.


2) Getting to see / hear the album before its official debut!

Greene opened up about how long it took to make the album — a little over a year — and how it reflects what’s been recently happening in his life, such as becoming a dad. He revealed his process of putting it all together, which included cutting out images in magazines and using cell phones to record some of the video.

Representing Microsoft, Amy Sorokas talked about how Microsoft’s goal in starting its Music x Technology initiative two years ago has been to highlight the “interesting” and “innovative” ways to use technology with music [another side note: this initiative has partnered with other talented folks, like Childish Gambino for his latest Awaken, My Love! album, which has been in heavy rotation in my Spotify account lately]. 

And Charlie Whitney, Washed Out's creative technologist, shared more about the Microsoft tech and programming used — including a three-Kinect setup and Roslyn APIs — and how tech “has gotten to the point where you could really do what you want.”

After the initial discussion, it was time for the other star of the night: Mister Mellow.

From a sound perspective, the 12-track album features chill, rhythmic, ambient tunes that have a ton of diverse undertones, like Bossa Nova, EDM and hip-hop.

From a visual perspective, it’s absolutely enchanting. Different mediums from Claymation to collaging and drawings complement each song, right down to synchronized tempos and beats. Scenes range from bright, light-hearted and vivid, to subdued and somber, and everything in between. There’s a track that takes viewers on a nostalgic, hilarious trip down memory lane to how our beloved city L.A. was like in the 1980’s; another track follows indiscernible characters solemnly walking down streets of recognizable cities around the world.

Visual albums aren’t new, but it’s absolutely amazing to get a firsthand glimpse and a better understanding of the technology that’s used to make it all happen. Towards the end of the night, all of the guests (including yours truly) even had a chance to test out the tech used to bring Mister Mellow's visual effects to life.

I walked away from the event thinking — man, this album would be so cool to have as a backdrop for a function, like a dinner party — and man, I really want the Kinect now, so I can make random, fun moves for my own videos.

What about you — have you experienced any noteworthy visual albums or any other out-of-the-box music experiences? Let me know in the comments section below!

More info: 

Greene will commemorate his new album with a nine-date “Get Lost” tour. Unfortunately, none of the shows will be in the L.A. area, but if you’ll be in the South sometime this summer, view his tour dates here


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