Out of the Bedroom
Memoryhouse’s 2010 self-released EP, “The Years,” was a small collection of above-average bedroom pop songs, replete with all of the trappings: layers of reverb, cassette tape and drum-machine clicks and even a sample from the “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” score were all present and accounted for.
It would have been easy to assume that shoegaze-y dream pop was the Ontario duo’s M.O., and many did, but Evan Abeele and Denise Nouvion didn’t really know what Memoryhouse was when they released “The Years.”
“That very first EP was very awkward baby steps,” Abeele said. “It didn’t really reflect who we are.”
Abeele is a classically trained composer. When he met Nouvion, a photographer, the two had originally planned on pairing Nouvion’s photographs with Abeele’s instrumentals to create short films. However, the two found themselves drawn to pop music and recorded their debut EP at Abeele’s home.
“I’ve always been a pretty avid pop listener, and there was appeal to being able to put words to what you’re writing,” Abeele said. “I liked the idea of being able to form a narrative.”
The band eventually signed to indie heavyweight Sub Pop and re-recorded “The Years.” The revisionary release did away with most of the samples that defined the EP originally and added more analog instrumentation. Abeele attributes the sonic shift to the band becoming more comfortable with pop songwriting.
Memoryhouse continues to diversify with their debut full-length, “The Slideshow Effect,” which comes out Tuesday.
At times, the album takes a hard left turn from dream pop into full-on alt-folk territory. Tracks like “Bonfire” and “Punctum” feature clean guitar and a twangy sound to bring out Nouvion’s gorgeous voice. Abeele said they’re some of his favorite tracks on the album because they show the duo’s ability to work within genres besides bedroom pop.
Abeele’s trained ear for good composition pervades “The Slideshow Effect,” but he’s taken care to remove overt traces of his classic musical upbringing. Memoryhouse avoids sweeping Baroque strings and large arrangements, opting instead for a minimalist feeling akin to modern classical composers like Max Richter, whose 2002 album is the source of the band’s name.
Memoryhouse hasn’t completely lost their interest in cross-media art after “The Years.” When Abeele, Nouvion and a touring drummer play in Minneapolis on Saturday, the show will feature video by Jamie Harley, a found-footage manipulator who has created videos for Twin Shadow, The Weeknd and How to Dress Well.
Photographs also inspire the band’s songs and form a common thread throughout “The Slideshow Effect.”
“This album I think is a bit more varied. It goes in a few directions, but I think it’s aesthetically grounded and, it kind of forms a narrative,” Abeele said.
That narrative is all about nostalgia: the folly and shallowness of recapturing the past. With “The Slideshow Effect,” Memoryhouse has used sharp songwriting and budding pop sensibilities to create something much more dynamic and whole.