Spend some time looking into the media dialogue surrounding Memoryhouse and you will undoubtedly run into the phrase “dream-pop.” It’s true, the trio’s music reflects an ambient and ethereal take on post-punk, but after seeing their electric performance at Bunk Bar in Portland last Saturday, any associations they might’ve had with sleep were quickly forgotten.
Walking up to the venue, I could hear the band playing different sections of “The Kids Were Wrong,” a single off their new album The Slideshow Effect. Only a dozen people were in the bar at the time, but all turned to watch as multi-instrumentalist Evan Abeele, vocalist/keyboardist Denise Nouvion and drummer Daniel Gray made small, focused adjustments during their sound check.
Songs like “Modern, Normal”, “Walk With Me” and (the now fully intact) “The Kids Were Wrong” were an excellent introduction to their expansive live presence, with Gray’s percussion adding a dynamic drive not heard on the groups more measured recordings. Whatever subtle adjustments made before the show were worth it, as the sound was more balanced and clearer than anything I’ve heard at Bunk. The crowd didn’t seem to mind either, with many now filling the bar’s front of house.
After moving through “Quiet America,” “Punctum,” and “Little Expressionless Animals” to howls from the crowd, the group closed with the Jon-Brion-sampling “Lately”. Watching the number performed live made it hard to believe the Ontario natives formed in 2010. The song’s remorseful, drifting tones and Nouvion’s airy lyrics, confessed a quiet sentiment and musicianship that seems only fit for bands twice their age. This went well with Bunk’s intimate environment and dimly lit stage (much to the umbrage of my camera). For an encore, The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” was successfully House-ed into a fun, echoing nightcap.
Starting up the night was Portland resident Malcom Lacey, performing under the name Arrange. Striking a balance somewhere between the oft-hyperactive beats of Will Wiesenfeld’s Baths and the sedate intensity of Gem Club, Malcom’s electronic tracks were an apt choice for the evening’s opener. Since 2010, the 19 year old has released an impressive amount of material (Five Years With The Sun, Plantation, Quiet State, paper parts and Two). With electric guitar, keyboard and laptop, Malcom played elegant bedroom pop, backed by slow electronic beats over moody synthesized melodies.
Be sure to catch Memoryhouse when they return from their 11-city European tour starting this month. Their first gig stateside will be at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina on April 16th, returning to Portland on April 30th to perform with Sub Pop label mates Washed Out at the Doug Fir.