It sounds daft now, but I was hoping this Canadian duo was a Memory Tapes/Beach House hybrid, a chillwave-dream pop chimera, with scuffed beats, reverbed vocals and 5 a.m. sunrise synths aplenty. If that was on your wish-list too, look away now. Fans of terribly polite indie are on to a winner though.
The arrival of the debut album from Ontario natives Memoryhouse has been well signposted on the blogs for a year or two, after their well-received Hipstamatic-filtered EP The Years from 2010, which got re-rerecorded on Sub Pop a year later when they upgraded from bedroom studio to the real deal.
The band was hatched as a collaborative multimedia project between neo-classical composer Evan Abeele and photographer Denise Nouvion, whose shots and short films acted as a visual catalyst for Abeele’s mimimal pieces. Even now they say their songwriting process begins with a photo, “to give us some kind of aesthetic grounding”. It all sounds like ammo for hipster-haters, but Denise’s photos on the website are lovely. Her voice is lovely too, like she’s been to lovely indie girl elocution lessons. It turns The Slideshow Effect into a big pyjama party of a record that could do with a bit more dirt under its nails.
Evan Abeele’s compositions are the strong link in the chain here – the clean guitars jangle in all the right places and the delicate synth washes and string samples can be enchanting. ‘The Kids Were Wrong’ is the stand-out cut, propelled on a skittery drum machine break and a jagged bassline that recalls Belly or the Breeders. ‘Old Haunts’ and ‘Walk With Me’ are other plus-points, their airy xx-style guitar ambience giving way to bursts of comfort blanket white noise and gear-changing riffs. Tracks like ‘Pale Blue’ and ‘Punctum’ stall things though, slow burners born of lethargy rather than the intended zen calm.
As the pedal steel guitar and piano chimes on ‘Bonfire’ and ‘All Our Wonder’ summon Lambchop’s Nixon from the ether you could picture Memoryhouse with a different singer. Add two extra stars for The Slideshow Effect with Denise replaced by Kurt Wagner, or a hundred other singers, or no singer at all. Hurry up internet and make it happen.