There was a point around this time last year when I listened to Memoryhouse's "Lately (Troisième)" over and over again. Not the Deuxième version, the acoustic Troisième one with the Eternal Sunshine theme on piano and not guitar, bleeding into blurry swirls of what a misty forest might sound like. It's not that the former version isn't equally as great, it's just that the acoustic version has a slower pace and no driving beat underneath all the rushes of sound to force it into a strict frame of time. This subtleness of the omnipresent piano theme instead faded into the rest of the song, only adding to the strange aesthetic of the piece to make it feel both otherworldly and dreamlike.
With The Slideshow Effect, Memoryhouse has stepped out from the other side of the looking glass and into the real world to become something tangible, no longer just wisps of airy harmonies. And I don't know how I feel about this.
"Lately (Troisième)," and the rest of Memoryhouse's first EP of yesteryear, provided an escape to a dreamlike trance. And, at the rate I played it on loop, multiple plays blurred into one another and I felt like I was swimming through a soundscape that dominated both my ears and mindset.
The Slideshow Effect is more straightforward, taking some of the dream out of dream pop, as if Memoryhouse finally woke up from the dream state of The Years. Though this isn't to say that the duo isn't still creating a nostalgic sound that is heavily grounded in somewhat cinematic aesthetics. But this time, the vocals of singer Denise Nouvian is driving the narrative of these stories, as opposed to blending in as another ethereal voice in a dreamy, cloudy nebulous of harmonies.
In this way, I think Memoryhouse does a firm job of establishing their identity in this debut full-length that builds on the shimmery reflection of what Memoryhouse was in their The Years EP. The LP is still feels like bedroom pop. And the album cover still looks Instagram'd. But there is more variety, more ups and downs to create a richer, more complex story.
"All Our Wonder" instantly drew me in with the lilt of the baseline under Nouvian's soft, emotional crooning ("No more silence in me / We're not the lucky ones / We'll never be the lucky ones"). Similarly, "Heirloom" pits a driving track against Nouvian's stark poetry: "Can we survive without measured time?" the track ends – which is interestingly fitting as much of The Years EP feels like being stuck in one timeframe, whereas The Slideshow Effect showcases a progression through time. The album closes with "Old Haunts," a drifting piece reminiscent of Memoryhouse's earlier work. Nouvian's voice echoes against a sparse, weeping guitar ("When will we know it's enough?") before everything drops to a halting pause, only to come back with a sudden jolt as she repeats a self-declaring assertion: "It's enough." For me, this strong ending epitomizes the album as a contrast to the swaying, nearly monochromatic The Years EP. Instead, The Slideshow Effect pushes away from the tumultuous past and moves forward with a story to tell.