Saturday, 18 February 2012

Memoryhouse - The Slideshow Effect

Almost by accident, the conception of Memoryhouse in Southern Ontario, Canada, has created some of the most individual sounds of Canadian pop culture; and the duo’s credibility may soon be paralleled with the likes of Arcade Fire, another Canadian group to break internationally. Combining the arts of photography and music has always been a major theme within Memoryhouse, as the music that the band played was originally due for a project that incorporated various mediums of expression. Evan Abeele’s compositional skills combined with Denise Nouvion’s chilling voice and photographical knowledge takes the idea of Memoryhouse into a level of its own. It is no surprise to note that the title of the Canadian duos album is ‘The Slideshow Effect’, bridging the gaps between the audio and visual realms.

With that in mind, there is clearly that same proposition that the first song, ‘Little Expressionless Animals’. The doubled voice that Abeele produced from the voice of Nouvion, and the hint of sustained synth suggests an ambient composition about expectations for the rest of the 10-track album. Halfway through the song, a burst of musical colour appears, with an addition of violins and a more up-beat drum pattern. The fuller sound however, does not aid terribly in recovering from such melancholy lyrics such as “Everybody knows you’re dead”, this sets another tone to early thoughts on the ideas that went into the album.

Almost out of nowhere, ‘The Kids Were Wrong’ objects our feelings from ‘Little Expressionless Animals’, and presents a very polar idiom. The song is carefree lyrically (“I’ll be right here by your side”) and uplifting, and also full of Rock n Roll style musicality, sounding very broad, almost as though it were recorded on stage. Oddly I can almost hear the likes of Paramore playing this; which adds to The Slideshow Effect’s imaginative origins. Again to follow, ‘All Our Wonder’ continues in this dreamy and thoughtful way.

As much as the first half of the album excites my thoughts, after hearing ‘Punctum’, ‘Heirloom’ and ‘Bonfire’, it is clear that there is a certain sound that Memoryhouse were after, and nothing else… The lack in tempo change does begin to become tedious, and it could almost be possible to rearrange all the guitar parts into similar songs (which are in heavy abundance) without anyone noticing a difference.

‘Pale Blue’ is a reminder of how equally important, if not more, the instrumentation is. Echoed keyboard patterns and further use of synth sounds bring us back to the beginning of the album, and the drums pick the song up in tempo halfway through, which is an emotional energiser for sure. And as we approach the last three songs, the album obtains an even more reflective state. Ending with ‘Walk With Me’, ‘Kinds Of Light’ and ‘Old Haunts’ seems appropriate, as it brings the album to a close, with exposed guitar arpeggios that places you on a sunset-lit beach in your head, very finished indeed.

Evan Abeele really exposes his knowledge of blending various idioms and ideas, and this also exists in Denise Nouvion, making the duo very capable of producing a smooth and consistent album. This has been a step-up from the release of their EP last year to a full length album, and so the fantastical and wondrous sounds of Memoryhouse are very memorable. It will also be interesting to survey Memoryhouse in their rise in popularity and credibility, maybe to that of their fellow Canadian predecessors.


Adam Laurence

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