I have to admit that I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the new Memoryhouse. When they surfaced in 2010, they seemed like an interesting new band that had the best of my two favourite B's: Beach House and Boards Of Canada. However, after a while my enthusiasm started to diminish drastically, sinking to an all-time low when they released the EP “The Years” on Sub Pop last September. They had re-recorded three old tracks and had added two new ones, which weren't very convincing, and many of us thought (or hoped) they would keep the best for their then-upcoming debut album, this here “The Slideshow Effect”. Possibly saturated with dream-pop material, the first couple of spins didn't do anything for me, but after the fourth or fifth listen, the album started to grow on me. And finally, I started to appreciate what Evan Abeele and Denise Nouvion have come up with.
From the start, Memoryhouse set out to be a multimedia project, what with Denise Nouvion being a photographer as well and Evan Abeele doing the soundtracks for her photos and short films. They've always tried for a cinematic sound— a sound evoking beautiful images. You can sense those ideas in the album title, and “The Slideshow Effect” is indeed a collection of ten sonic postcards taking us to other places. We find ourselves swimming in the sea at night on “Kinds Of Light”, and the softly playing guitar and cricket sounds of the sweet “Bonfire” conjure up images of campfires in the woods while Nouvion sings about the memories a photo brings her (“I left your photo in this pool / With all the thoughts I weave, in order to recall you”). A self-referential lyric, and a correct folk song.
Like on the reissue of “The Years EP”, there's a re-mastered version of an old song on this album, too: the distant “Heirloom”, which exemplifies the cleaner production they've chosen for this piece of work, courtesy of their bassist, Barzin Hassani Rad. It sounds more organic and sizzling, as if the band had definitively left their bedroom producing days behind them. But it does have to be said: the tense calm before the climax doesn't seem so tense anymore in this new version.
They've made some style changes, too. Though the first bit, with mid-tempo track “Little Expressionless Animals” (kudos on the violin, by the way), sounds like the dream-pop they've always produced, the second track is a surprise. “The Kids Were Wrong”, released some time ago as an advance track, ups the tempo a bit and sounds close to shoegaze pop. What hasn't changed, though, are the references to dreaming (“Go to sleep, nothing's changing” and “You're hiding in daydreams”). They even sound their best at some of those moments: “Pale Blue” gives me goose pimples with its subtle, intoxicating power.
The structure of closing track, “Old Haunts”, is a metaphor for the twosome's career: it starts out in fine style, but doesn't manage to entirely take off. Then comes a moment of silence, and after that break, the explosion that shoots it up sky-high. About time.