Memoryhouse is a dreamy lo-fi indie duo consisting of Evan Abeele (composer) and Denise Nouvion (vocalist). Their first full-length The Slideshow Project was released in February 2012 via Sub Pop Records and took two full years to make. The two-piece spent time touring their songs with no rush to release a debut, in order to fully develop their sound. Memoryhouse previously released a four-track, home-recorded EP in 2010, titled The Years (Arcade Sound, 2010), which was later improved and re-released on Sub Pop in September 2011. The duo didn’t intentionally set out to create a band, but rather, a collaborative art project between Evan’s musical compositions and Denise’s photographs. They’ve seemingly kept the same inspiration as shown in their album’s title The Slideshow Project, which they say, “refers to the photographic/cinematic technique of zooming and panning to animate still images.”
In today's world, understated is extremely hard to find. We live in an increasingly loud society and that trickles down to music as well. For that reason, this Canadian duo's debut EP The Years was a huge breath of fresh air. A subtly stunning effort, the disc pitted composer Evan Abeele's delicate melodies and lush arrangements over Denise Nouvion's sleepy, mellifluous vocals and introspective lyrics.
Though Nouvion rarely raised her voice above a coo and Abeele's accompaniments were perpetually subtle, the EP packed an immense emotional punch. It may have only featured four tracks in its original incarnation—Sub Pop released an updated, five-track version of it in 2011—but it proved to have incredible sticking power, thanks mostly to the serene, yet suffocating "Lately." Built around a re-imagined version of Jon Brion's classic "Phone Call," from Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Nouvion delivered an impossibly powerful performance, delicately toeing the line between alluring and lamenting before gracefully surrendering to the song's quiet, devastating climax with the simple "shut me off." Other standouts included the airy, chilly "Modern, Normal" and "Sleep Patterns," probably the truest example of the band's brilliance.
While The Years was undoubtedly one of the best debuts of 2010, it remained to be seen whether the newly buzzworthy group could follow it up with an equal or superior full-length. 2012's The Slideshow Effect put those anxieties to bed, as the group unleashed a balanced, totally worthy successor. Without losing their serene, sublime backbone, they were able to branch out of dream pop world, even adding some upbeat, drum-heavy numbers, such as first single "The Kids Were Wrong" and re-imagined old favorite "Heirloom," to balance out the disc's celestial, hushed moments. The mid-tempo cuts are a nice foil to their more familiar delicate numbers, like the wonderfully nostalgic "Punctum," the floaty "Pale Blue," and the sultry, just-a-little-bit-country "Bonfire." Their developing sonic versatility is perhaps best highlighted by the devastating "Walk With Me," a song that starts slow but gradually swells to a sumptuous crescendo.
Aside from their impressive songwriting and commitment to subtlety, the thing that really sets the band apart from the rest of their dreamy, Instagram-powered peers is its two members' unique relationship. In many musical two-person teams, there is clearly an alpha dog, but like in many of the best duos (Beach House comes to mind), Albeele and Nouvion know precisely how to complement one another and how to make their presence felt without stepping on the other's toes. Like so few new artists today, they both know that they are there for the song, not the other way around, which is one of the main reasons understated music is so hard to find and why Memoryhouse is such a find.