Memoryhouse talks a lot about concept. After the release of the Canadian group’s 2011 EP, The Years, core members Evan Abeele and Denise Nouvion spoke of how Memoryhouse was conceived as a multimedia, sound-and-photography project; how its name was inspired by the German neoclassical composer Max Richter; and how genres were irrelevant to their aesthetic. Thankfully, little of that pretention wound up seeping into The Slideshow Effect. The group’s first full-length is tethered to the middle of the indie-rock road, stuffed with Abeele’s gently jangling guitar and Nouvion’s sugary, whispery voice. That formula kicks in early on with the back-to-back pop gems “The Kids Were Wrong” and “All Our Wonder,” both of which sparkle, chime, and would seem to indicate a fairly conventional record to follow.
That record never arrives. “Punctum” curbs the pace with a muted, Fleetwood-Mac-in-quicksand vibe that tugs and smothers; as Abeele’s twangy licks kick against gravity, the melancholy undertow grows. “It’s not enough to live your life through photographs,” coos Nouvion—herself a photographer—a sentiment that subtly erodes Memoryhouse’s entire backstory.
That’s not the last of the disc’s self-negation. Like a snapshot soaked in solvent, Slideshow grows gradually, eerily blurrier. “Heirloom” separates its sparse notes with decades’ worth of ache. The keyboard-colored “Kinds Of Light” is a Xerox of an x-ray of a song. When closer “Old Haunts” hits, the nearly cheery folk-pop of Slideshow’s start is just a dim afterimage. The effect doesn’t always register; too often the album floats by in a wash of grays that almost cries for more pretentious conceptualism, if for no other reason than to liven things up. Even at its most wispy and abstract, though, Slideshow is shrouded in a ghostly poignancy that flutters and fades like a flashback.