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Memoryhouse - The Slideshow Effect Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9.5
Musicianship 9
Lyrics 9
Production 8.5
Creativity 8
Lasting Value 9.5
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Final Verdict: 90%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.38
Musicianship 9.13
Lyrics 8.75
Production 9.13
Creativity 8.75
Lasting Value 8.88
Reviewer Tilt 9.13
Average: 90%
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Memoryhouse - The Slideshow Effect

Reviewed by: Broden Terry (03/01/12)
Memoryhouse - The Slideshow Effect
Record Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: February 28th, 2012

If you've been frequenting this website for the past eighteen months, you may already be aware by now that Canadian duo Memoryhouse have essentially been my "it" band for almost as long as they've been crafting their lovely blend of intricate music. You may also be aware of my belief that lead vocalist Denise Nouvion has the most beautiful of deliveries; and perhaps with the assistance of composer Evan Abeele, that's part of the reason why, to this point, it has been so effortlessly easy to fall in love with the irresistible charm and sense of subdued magic that lingers unseen, but certainly heard, within their prior studio recordings.

Right from the beginning of their formation, in even their earliest recordings when Memoryhouse were forced to write in the tiniest of cramped bedrooms, the duo have always had the immeasurably powerful ability to write with such stirring immersive imagery. Take the band's debut extended play, The Years, for instance. The re-recorded version of "Lately" is initially driven by fleeting traces of cello and dual piano lines intertwining simultaneously. Nouvion's vocals are pushed back deep into the mix, saturated in fragmented reverb as she sings loftily, "Lately, I'm not sleeping, I'm not dreaming without machines". However, as the final thirty seconds begin to elapse, there's an alarming sense of sadness, of vulnerability, of closure and finality etched into her pleading delivery as she whispers repeatedly one final emotional motif, "shut me off, shut me off." That relatable imagery ingrains itself into each and every individual track Memoryhouse have yet penned. "To The Lighthouse" is another quality example, for when it opens with carefree childish laughter and waltzing keys, who could have ever expected it to progress into a breathtaking five minute gem of restrained somberness? The final lyrics uttered are a despondent but equally poetic, "Sleep the summer chill in sheets of linen / hush the static sound of time dispersing."

However, while it is unequivocally important to re-cap the material and the releases that have got Memoryhouse to this point, what is of even more importance is that these previous two years of sustained hard work, effort and perseverance has culminated in the worldwide release of the band's debut full-length, The Slideshow Effect. The most noticeably apparent and drastic difference is that the underlying sound of Memoryhouse has evolved - it's not so much a change, but it can certainly be considered a gradual evolution. Whereas in previous studio efforts the duo have tended to utilize an abundance of reverb in order to almost hide themselves in a heavy cloak of melancholic textures, The Slideshow Effect instead emphasizes the importance of creating a new hopeful, positive and vibrant outlook. Nouvion now has that confidence to bring her vocals to the forefront, to allow her voice to bask within the glowing spotlight that it tried so hard to persistently avoid during the band's musical career to date. Likewise, Abeele now has the ability to break free of the restrictive enclosure that is a bedroom recording, and subsequently, as a result, he intrinsically challenges and motivates himself throughout the duration of these ten tracks to incorporate lavish arrangements that feature the usage of strings, violins, pianos, keys and an assortment of cinematic and modern instrumentation that blends seamlessly together.

That's not to say that all the melancholic tendencies are forgotten, there are still those beautiful, heartfelt moments where Memoryhouse do revert back to the sound that first captivated audiences, but they're no longer totally reliant upon it. The album itself opens with "Little Expressionless Animals", and the delicate multi-layered coos of Nouvion swiftly wander into proceedings from the immediate outset. The introductory verse is driven splendidly by skittering drumbeats, a lovely Capella, faint echoing vocal effects and even the lingering indistinguishable warmth of violins briefly making a welcome appearance during the bridge. However, the first truly memorable and captivating moment within the song eventuates straight after those same violins ease deeper into the mix - their task having been accomplished. Authentic drumbeats provide the rhythm, electric guitars with subtle traces of distortion gently push the track forward, and Nouvion's vocals take their rightful position at the centre of the recording as she sings metaphorically, "I can feel this space becoming what it never was / do we embrace the hours as if we never lost one? / lonely resignation, tethered to your thoughts / I'm dreaming through these motions in the hope that it will last." The gentle female vocal harmonies then make a pleasant reappearance, but it's merely a compelling illusion designed to lull the listener into a false sense of security, for nothing could prepare audiences for the final minute. Seemingly out of nowhere Nouvion does something that she's never had the confidence or courage to do before, she not only leads - she commands. She hoists "Little Expressionless Animals" on her back and she carries the track with a stunning vocal performance. There's resentment and something sinister in the way she repeats the enticing hook of, "And I won't follow you back home", that re-awakens the violins, strings and keys for one final flourish before the track reaches an inaudible conclusion not long afterwards. It's Memoryhouse at their beautiful, finest and passionate best.

Speaking of beauty, you'll be hard pressed to find anything quite as gorgeous as the delightful, "Punctum". There are moments where the track seems to be heading in a predominantly folk-country inspired direction due to its heavy reliance on the lovely sliding lap-steel, as well as there being times where it threatens to dabble tantalizingly with the prospect of implementing a few memorable hooks. As silly and disbelieving as it sounds, thankfully none of those aforementioned things happen to eventuate, resulting in the track being welcome to weave with all the elegance, charm and class that it undoubtedly possesses. There's a familiar touch of melancholy ingrained within the lyrics, and the manner in which Nouvion is able to deliver lines such as the opening introductory verse, "It's not enough to live your life through photographs", suggests how exposed she feels in having just uttered something so genuine to an attentive audience. By the time the track reaches its latter stages, Nouvion's thought-provoking lyrics are seemingly intent upon wounding their deliverer, the very person who gave them the ability to resonate with anyone who has ever been in a similar situation of feeling incomplete, inadequate and stuck within the confines of past. "I've been searching for you in these frames, by face or name / where's the fight you are feeling when life takes away each fleeting part of what we are inside?"

It's not all slow and mid-tempo numbers that litter the forty-five minute duration of The Slideshow Effect. There are also moments where the band is unafraid to lift the urgency, to create a semblance of sustained momentum, and to incorporate a few timely hooks and memorable melodies along the way. One such occasion comes in the form of lead single, "The Kids Were Wrong", a track that Memoryhouse have had penned and stored away since their inception. More than anything, what the track successfully manages to convey is that although there are pulsating programmed drumbeats, sliding guitars and tambourines all on display, "The Kids Were Wrong" still has ethereal, dreamy, aching qualities etched into it so that it still feels and sounds like the duo, only with slightly more glistening production. Elsewhere, "Walk With Me" overcomes a two minute lull to belatedly blossom into what could arguably be considered the most gorgeous and inviting chorus featured here. It plays out like a compelling narrative with Nouvion describing a tale of young love in its most passionate and heartfelt of forms. Without exaggeration, as a listener, when the chorus sweeps into proceedings and when the words are given time to resonate, it's one of those truly gorgeous moments. "This love could be graced with symmetry / walk with me, won't you walk with me?" pleads Nouvion, her voice quivering with emotion and vulnerability. With a cinematic soundscape accompanying it courtesy of Abeele, it's as if the track is encouraging its audience to draw on our own experiences; to conjure our own lasting images of teenage love, adoration and adolescent yearning we've all succumbed too, for better or worse.

As well as featuring predominantly unheard material, Memoryhouse have also made the effort to completely re-work and re-record two prior classics from their own back catalog, "Heirloom" and "Bonfire", with the latter fortunately being an enormous improvement over the original rendition. The former, however, is anything but. From the moment I saw the inclusion of "Heirloom" on the tracklist, there was an overwhelming feeling of personal unease. How were Memoryhouse to once again recapture what I personally perceive to be the closest thing to perfection the band have ever yet came close to achieving? How were they going to somehow stay true to the original version that many returning fans have developed such an appreciation and attachment towards? The power behind the original rendition of "Heirloom" is in Nouvion allowing her vocals to become hidden under the deepest and thickest surface of reverb imaginable, not to mention the lack of any glossy production or modern instrumentation. Unfortunately, by the time overproduced rippling guitar solos, heavy drumbeats and worst of all, the tempo being unforgivably ratcheted up slightly during the chorus, there should already be a sense of disappointment amongst the Memoryhouse faithful. In saying that, new fans should immediately gravitate towards it. The one positive that comes out of the track's five minute duration is that the lyrics remain unchanged, and thankfully "Heirloom" contains some of the very best featured on the album. "Can we survive, without measured time?"

If there's one thing the Ontario duo do exceptionally well, it's their profound ability to begin these songs quietly and build them into devastating climaxes - and this is precisely how the album comes to end with the remarkable and aptly titled, "Old Haunts". It's classic Memoryhouse and it's undoubtedly the grandest, most brooding, ambitious and cinematic piece of music to be heard on this debut effort. Abeele opens the track with the most tense and spiraling guitar line; there are fluctuating keyboards from deep within the mix intent upon delivering moody minor key melodies, but then attention is temporary diverted to the cascading vocals of Nouvion as she sings in nothing more than a fragile whisper, "When will we know it's enough?". There are moments within the next two minutes that are simply unforgettable when put into context with the remainder of the album. At one point the drumbeats begin to pulsate, cymbals are on the verge of crashing, that very same guitar that Abeele holds in his hands trembles and slides along with the notes he's performing, and you can almost literally feel the palpable tension and stress even in Nouvion's vocals. For a fleeting moment they rise and soar spectacularly when she sings, "I kept you here beneath my breath / smoothed the sheets upon the bed / gathered slowly on the steps / placed an heirloom to forget." After a short interval, the instrumentation fades. A distant string wanes noticeably on the verge of a dramatic collapse and then there's temporary silence. As a listener, you're left captivated and contemplating just how you've been totally absorbed, hooked, engrossed and gripped by such a moving build-up. The album seems to end on that faint guitar oscillation, but then it all just explodes once again in a wave of utmost passion. Guitars wail thunderously, strings are pushed to the very edge of their capabilities, vocals soar with conviction previously unseen and unheard, and there are majestic qualities residing within each and every crashing wave of the finest crescendo you're likely to hear all year. It's fitting then that a choir of Nouvion's own vocal layers should shout the final lyrics of the release, a unified cry of "It's enough". But after hearing something so traumatizing and beautifully crafted, you soon realize that it never really will be because "Old Haunts", and The Slideshow Effect itself for that matter, is something you just cannot get enough of.

Recommended If You LikeBoards Of Canada, Beach House

Additional Information1. Little Expressionless Animals
2. The Kids Were Wrong
3. All Our Wonder
4. Punctum
5. Heirloom
6. Bonfire
7. Pale Blue
8. Walk With Me
9. Kinds Of Light
10. Old Haunts
11. Pioneer (Bonus Track)
Purchase
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Displaying posts 1 - 14 of 14.
05:41 AM on 03/01/12
#2
Broden Terry
I'm glad I built myself an igloo
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I've heard some discussion, not necessarily here on this website but in a variety of publications, saying what a disappointment this release is and how the band have sacrificed their trademark sound for something far more pop oriented and polished. Now, I've had this album for the past three/four months, and initially I couldn't warm to it either. What I'm saying is that if you're a returning fan who is a little upset and disappointed in the lack of reverb and dreaminess this debut offers, just persevere. Don't give up on it because you'll eventually connect with it, love it and adore it equally as much as I do.

Stream the album in its entirety.
06:29 AM on 03/01/12
#3
jbwillisfan
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why do i seem to be the first one commenting on your reviews? i've been listening to this nonstop since it started streaming so you don't need to convince me how good this is. i just hope people dont toss it aside if they don't like it straight a way. your insight is invaluable too. one of the best reads & reviews on this website. congrats.
06:36 AM on 03/01/12
#4
Broden Terry
I'm glad I built myself an igloo
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why do i seem to be the first one commenting on your reviews? i've been listening to this nonstop since it started streaming so you don't need to convince me how good this is. i just hope people dont toss it aside if they don't like it straight a way. your insight is invaluable too. one of the best reads & reviews on this website. congrats.

I just figured out you follow me on Twitter, so perhaps that's how you're arriving here first? But thank you so much, you're way too kind. I'm a little nervous as to how people will react to the length, but I love to incorporate detail whenever and wherever I can. Hopefully it doesn't alienate too many individuals. Is it too early for you to select a favorite song or two?
12:33 PM on 03/01/12
#5
ChaseTx
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Good review, I like what little I've heard.
03:34 PM on 03/01/12
#6
XLT917
We're never dead unless we give up.
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Can you please write a book some day? You have such a way with words. Wonderful review, wonderful album. Your reviews have a way of becoming part of my listening experience as much as the music. Even if it is an album I already love, once I read your review, I get so much more from the music than I thought possible.
06:13 PM on 03/01/12
#7
Argentine
When I die, rap dies; Destiny Bond.
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So excited to hear this. Great review.
06:21 AM on 03/02/12
#8
drewinseries
Fight to get it back again.
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My friend was telling me how much Memoryhouse sucks now, so I wasn't sure what to expect with this listening for the first time. I enjoy it after the first listen. Don't see why so many have issues with it. Pitchfork did not like this at all, but who would have expected otherwise.

The intro track is fantastic.
08:03 AM on 03/03/12
#9
CheckeredFloors
nah
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Definitely felt like it was lacking something after the first few listens but I've really warmed up to it since. There's just something so honest and welcoming. Idk. It's good shit though, that's for sure.
10:05 AM on 03/03/12
cwhit412
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Album is pretty cool. weirdly, reminds me of lydia at some points, which makes no sense to me, but I totally hear it
06:33 PM on 03/03/12
seimagery
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Hate to side with Pitchfork here, but to me they did toss away what made them interesting to me. Few good jams on here but mostly a letdown.
04:14 AM on 03/04/12
Jeff_Ryan
easy come and easy go, whatever
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It took a few listens for the tracks to really separate themselves in my mind. At first they all sounded kind of similar to me. My only real criticism of the album is that she sounds kind of bored at some points. She has a nice voice, but could have sang with a little more emotion imo. Really good album overall though
08:04 PM on 03/04/12
thesafeword
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I love this album.
01:27 PM on 03/05/12
iden22
close call
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I'm really enjoying this. Love Denise's voice.
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