Memoryhouse, The Slideshow Effect
At face value, it’s hard to view Memoryhouse’s debut LP as anything more than the generic musical expression of a subculture guided by the easily-digested values of Urban Outfitters or American Apparel.
Maybe it’s the obscure photography jargon referenced in both the band’s name and LP or the use of the all-too-common, Instagram-esque cover photo. Perhaps it’s the fact that yet another band is trying to stake a claim in the overly-saturated dream-pop landscape, or the constant comparisons to other dream-pop contemporaries. With all that in mind, The Slideshow Effect appeared from the start to be pushing style over substance.
With its sighing “ahhs” and bereaved lyrics, “Little Expressionless Animals” offers a telling glimpse into what constitutes this debut LP. Throughout The Slideshow Effect, Denise Nouvion’s vocals walk the contradictory line of being distinct enough to carry the melody while being generically indie enough to sink into the penumbra of Evan Abeele’s echoing musical accompaniment.
The dream pop “ahhs” continue in the somber charm of “All Our Wonder.” The metallophone introduction, slide guitar leads, and glacial pace all form a soothing, dreamy atmosphere. In fact, with the exception of “The Kids Were Wrong,” The Slideshow Effect is completely veiled in this slow, ethereal haze. Whether it’s Nouvion’s penchant for overly nostalgic lyrics or Abeedle’s decision to remain within a limited musical style, The Slideshow Effect is mainly comprised of subdued and nearly indistinguishable songs.
This lack of creative expression often leads to moments of uncanny familiarity. The lyrical content and musical structure of “Pale Blue” and “Old Haunts” are too closely linked; they would be better presented as two movements of the same song. It’s as if the duo took the dream-pop genre too literally, creating a pleasant album resembling the blurred and fading details felt in the aftermath of a dream. What could have been an intriguing melodic journey of regret and unease quickly fades into monotony.
Without question, the substance is there. It’s neither the individual talents of Abeele or Nouvion that fails The Slideshow Effect. In the end, Memoryhouse needed more style and, dare I say it, a bit of pretension to go with their obvious talent. Rather than take a chance and explore beyond the limits of their sound, the band decided to play it safe. The end result is far from a poor album, but sadly, just another album.
(Feature photo by Derek O’Donnell.)