Sub Pop. Release date 2/28/12
When I read that Memoryhouse—composer Evan Abeele and photographer Denise Nouvion—were from Ontario it made perfect sense. There's a word that always comes to mind when I'm listening to this band (and I think Pitchfork or Brooklyn Vegan used it in one of their Memoryhouse reviews recently) and that word is glacial. Their music is spacious and cold, but not in a frigid way. I'm referring to the sparse beauty of Abeele's compositions. The music ebbs and flows in a style that makes you nostalgic for early morning hang sessions with your closest friends. There's just something in the sound that's welcoming. It's perfect for any time; late night listening sessions or afternoon drives. It's ambient pop for those seeking a little relaxation in this constantly interconnected world of non-stop status updates and social media addictions. Perhaps one of the greatest compliments I can pay The Slideshow Effect is that it lessens my frantic thought processes, similar to music I'd select before meditating or diving into a difficult project. Soothing is another word that comes to mind.
"Little Expressionless Animals" kicks the record off with floating acapella vocals (plus a shuttering effect that made me think, for a second anyway, that perhaps my transport or DAC were having issues – but alas its part of the track) and a pounding kick drum. When Nouvion's voice comes in the song changes from space music to laid-back trip hop, sounding a bit like Mojave 3. Thankfully, Memoryhouse switches it up immediately by following the glassy-eyed opener with "The Kids Were Wrong", which has a new wave swing to it and a dash of post punk attitude. "Pale Blue" sounds a bit like Ivy with strings. "Kinds of Light" sounds exactly as the name implies. The introduction is minimal, but sounds lush with dreamy, simple piano strokes enveloped by cascading synths. When the percussion kicked in I was already in a trance. "Walk With Me" builds slowly, sounding like a modern score that belongs in a film scene where a character is traveling through a large, modern city but feels completely disconnected from everything (like Bill Murray's character in Lost in Translation). The song builds into this poppy, anthemic bounce. It's the kind of music that amps you up, it's chord progressions are emotionally uplifting.
They create these luscious musical landscapes that soar without being too loud. Mellow sonics continue throughout The Slideshow Effect, so there are no great surprises, but that is a terrific thing actually, as this album just works. You know the style of music they use on a soundtrack during contemplative moments? That's how I would describe Memoryhouse. It's ethereal but it's got soul (unlike euro-trance garbage for example). They don't sound like they are consciously trying to rip off their influences and play it easy. The band sounds like they are working through something on every song. There's a sense of transformation that is fleeting, but hopeful. I wholeheartedly love music like this. It becomes a much needed salve after a long day fighting the rat race. Thanks Memoryhouse, with music like yours who needs drugs (well, not exactly) but it's a joyous listening experience. I couldn't give them a higher recommendation, especially in these troubled times. Soothing music can save your life, and when I'm stressed to the point of mental fracture, listening to music like this centers me, and helps slow the world down for a bit.