Tyler Willis / Uncategorized

Album Review: Memoryhouse – The Slideshow Effect (Tyler Willis)

Memoryhouse
The Slideshow Effect
Sub Pop (2012) 

Memoryhouse’s debut LP has finally arrived nearly two years after 2010’s promising The Years EP. Initially intended as a multimedia collaboration between composer Evan Abeele and photographer Denise Nouvion, the duo has developed into a formidable indie pop act with The Slideshow Effect.

Their first release, The Years EP, arrived in 2010 amidst a flurry of releases from similarly minded chilled-out bedroom electronic projects. Instead of danceable beats and 80s synths, their EP drew from ambient music and shoegaze. Nouvion’s nonchalant yet captivating vocal delivery further set Memoryhouse apart from the glo-fi crowd. Lines like “Lately, my heart’s been breaking” were delivered with an almost Morrissey-esque sort of romanticized despair.

With their hazy aesthetic, Memoryhouse has the uncanny ability to create the illusion of suspended time. The Years EP seemed frozen in some distant past while The Slideshow Effect brings the focus to the present. “It’s not enough to live your past, through photographs,” Nouvion declares in album highlight “Punctum.” She suggests we “be free from those dull years,” yet of course, acknowledging the future can be quite daunting. “Heirloom” articulates this predicament nicely: “Lie on the ground before the lightning strikes / Just don’t drown in the flood” and “The days all seemed far off, until the sky swelled up.” Much of the LP is spent wrestling with this desire to suspend time and simply “lie still, waiting for the day to spill.”

This manifests musically in the immediacy and crispness of the production. Everything is bare and exposed; there is no reverb to hide behind this time. Synths and samples have been swapped out for strings, guitars and piano. The result is a very “live” sound with each element clearly communicating its presence. The songs exist in the here and now rather than some cloudy history.

Ultimately, the vocals are likely to be the make or break element of this record for many. They matter much more now that they are not simply buried in the mix. Sure, they sound quite casual, but that is kind of the point. The familiarity and honesty in Nouvion’s vocals create a certain intimacy that is essential for these songs to work.

This is a bold debut record. They abandoned the electronic sounds of their popular initial release and dared to lift the veil of reverb and effects. Luckily, the substance has endured while cast in a refreshing new light.

7/10

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