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Live Review and Photos: Memoryhouse, March 16, 2012, Bootleg Theater – Los Angeles, CA

Photos by Philip Cosores

When Evan Abelle and Denise Nouvion began Memoryhouse five years ago, I don’t think they imagined that it would be as big as it is today. What originally intended to be a multimedia art project that combined Nouvion’s visual creative outlets of short films and photography with Abelle’s music composition has allowed them to bring that project onto a larger scale. How large exactly? Well, they put out their first EP The Years that received critical acclaim, which caught the ears of Sub Pop Records and signed them to a record deal. That led to the much-anticipated release of their debut album The Slideshow Effect last month and a headlining tour that included a stop at Los Angeles’ Bootleg Theater on a chilly Friday night.

Warming up the crowd for the evening was the lone opener Sister Crayon, who has come a long way since starting out as a one-woman band consisting of vocalist Terra Lopez, a loop pedal, and a guitar. Now, they’re a quartet rounded out by beat-maker Dani Fernandez, drummer Nicholas Shur, and keyboardist/guitarist Jeffrey Latour. Last year, they released their debut album Bellow that flew by under the radar of many. Having already toured with Built to Spill earlier in the year, they’re looking to make an impact in 2012. Though they’re from Sacramento, the numerous amounts of times they’ve rolled through Los Angeles should make them quite familiar with the local folks. And judging by the large crowd already gathered on the main floor, people were definitely excited to see them.

Drawing strong parallels to the XX, Fernandez did her best to rival Jamie XX in creating downtempo trip-hop beats with her drum machine on “Here We Never Die.” But the real highlights of the set came from “(In) Reverse” and “Thief-Boxer, Asleep” where Lopez displayed her ability as a singer. On the former, she sang the lyrics with a hip hop-like delivery, hitting her high notes with perfection, and on occasionally oscillating her vocals with effects during the refrain. While on the latter, she looped multiple vocal melodies that harmonized together that created a ghostly echo throughout the room. At one point during that song when the looped melodies faded out, Lopez sang a couple of lines (without singing into the microphone, mind you) in an operatic manner that mesmerized the crowd to the point of silence. With a musical style that’s dips into trip-hop (ala Portishead) and the shoegaze/electronica fusion reminiscent of School of Seven Bells, Sister Crayon is severely underrated and demands attention.

Surprisingly, by the time Memoryhouse took the stage, the crowd seemed to thin out a bit. Nevertheless, those who stayed were looking to be immersed in the live music. At one point, Evan Abelle exclaimed, “We’re Memoryhouse and we’re having sound issues.” This pretty much sums up the first couple of songs where the band was experiencing technical difficulties that ranged from members not hearing the on-stage monitors to the vocals being way too low from the crowd’s perspective. Fortunately, these minor setbacks occurred early in the set and by the time they played a faster-paced version of “Walk with Me” from the The Slideshow Effect and “Sleep Patterns” from The Years EP, all the rough edges were smoothed out.

When Denise Nouvion stepped away from her keyboards and took the microphone in her hands for “Modern, Normal,” she and the rest of the band finally seemed to settle on-stage, looking more comfortable and relaxed. In a live setting, the song best exemplified their take of the dream-pop genre. Nouvion’s rangy vocal melodies, Abelle’s echoing guitar riffs, and drummer Daniel Gray’s hazy rhythm weaved together beautifully to create a rather spellbinding experience.

Perhaps that’s the reason why most of the crowd remained pretty stoic throughout their set. It was a bit surprising that they did, even on the upbeat number “Heirloom” with the bouncy, syncopated percussion. Memoryhouse even tried to incite the crowd to dance as they set out a dance competition during “The Kids Were Wrong.” But it wasn’t enough to get the crowd moving as only a few people danced along, so there wasn’t really a winner.

Having played most of their catalog already, Memoryhouse decided to vary up their set by throwing in a cover of My Bloody Valentine’s “When You Sleep,” which no one caught on to. Though it wasn’t as sonically destructive as the original, their rendition was subtle, minimal, and ethereal. Nouvion’s vocals sailed along the delayed, reverb-drenched guitar that created a pleasing wall-of-sound. “Little Expressionless Animals” had Gray provide some backing vocal melodies that harmonized with Nouvion’s that went off a bit off-tempo, but it ended up providing a nice swing to the song.

After ending their set with “Lately,” they came back out for an encore with a cover of The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” a song that they’ve been incorporating into their set on this current tour. It’s noticeable that they’ve had little time to practice it since the timing was slightly off. But they rebounded strongly, ending the night with “All Our Wonder” that showcased their strong points of glistening guitars and wistful vocals.

Overall, Memoryhouse had a pretty solid performance, save for the earlier sound issues. The crowd looked mainly impassive throughout the whole set, but it can probably be attested to them being enwrapped in the music. And with their folk-tinged dream-pop sounds, one can get lost in their music without even knowing it.

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