After first only endeavoring to create a multimedia project pairing sound with images between composer Evan Abeele and photographer Denise Nouvion, becoming more of a band and releasing an EP, then doing the relentless touring thing for a few years, now Memoryhouse is now releasing their debut album, The Slideshow Effect, now out on Sub Pop. If you’ve seen them live, you already know what to expect for the most part, but as many of the most brilliant parts are in the tiny details, giving the songs they’ve been crafting for the past two years a proper studio treatment allows you to notice what you may not otherwise.
They’ve really moved away from the wandering ambient sounds of the songs on The Years EP, and made fuller, more cinematic songs on this full length. As the title suggests, that’s exactly the point. The songs are also more structured, with Nouvion’s voice assuming a larger presence in more traditionally crafted pop songs. Instead of floating in and out of heavy reverb sound waves, she clearly and cleanly sings straightforward lyrics that become a more dominant force in setting the tone and theme of the songs.
The album has been crafted well to communicate nostalgic sentiments and reflections that blend and drift easily. The xylophone in “All Our Wonder” contrasts with sliding guitar to exemplify exactly what the words imply. “Bonfire has an even more folksy twang to it, and evokes images of sitting around a campfire on a cool night. Most of the time this interplay between words and music balance well between subtle and simple, there are times when the words start to overtake the music with more calculation and coldness.
The second half of the album is when it feels like it starts to languish. After a while the vocal repetition starts to feel droning, and the songs start to blend together into the background. The compositions feel warm and complex, and there are times where Nouvion’s voice floats through itself with the multiple backing tracks on “Kinds of Light,” when adding more is better. Other times, such as the end of closer “Old Haunts” is when Nouvion’s voice feels too prominent after just a few measures too long. Although, there are plenty of other little details in that song that are nice once you notice them, like when she says “Can’t you hear beneath my breath,” and takes a breath right before the word “breath.”Overall, this is an album for your own personal cinematic pleasure, to add to the soundtrack of the movie of your life when you’re walking down the street, driving in your car, having afternoon tea, or gardening. Whatever it is you’re doing, this will make you notice the little things that much more.