Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Memoryhouse @ Brighton The Hope

Chill wave, glo-fi, dream pop, wrap this music up in whatever genre / scene you want, but it all means nothing if what’s underneath doesn’t have substance. On record Canadian boy-girl ambient-minimalists Memoryhouse have light keyboard flutters, whispering slides of guitar and plaintive female vocals to provide sleepy pillow-soft gentleness. In their live incarnation their sedate sound is bolstered by an additional member that allows layers of hazy, fuzzy guitar to work in tandem to create a slightly beefier, less tranquil sound, albeit the mix and PA system at The Hope muddies the clarity somewhat.

The stage is lit in just a ghostly blue light, and although the ninety capacity venue is less than half full, the English seaside summer warmth ensures that the temperatures are nearer to red - the portable air conditioning unit is stretched to its limits. Lead singer Denise Nouvion’s vocal is icily detached though, displaying a dull unemotional flatness, similar in nature to Scarlett Johansson on her debut recording Anywhere I Lay My Head, until she sings “Let’s get cold together,” on Bonfire which is sung with, ironically, warmth and passion.

Nouvion sways backwards and forth in front of a box of electronic tricks, occasionally looking to her two band members for support, as slow ambling grooves, quiet electronic drum patterns and ambient keyboard sounds mix with washes of layered Cocteau Twins-esque guitar and Beach House mellowness. It could be affecting and beautiful stuff but it needs a better sound system in a more vibey venue and visual enhancement through more of a light show, dry ice or video to fulfil this promise. There seems to be some substance there, but maybe this empty pub just wasn’t quite the right setting to witness it.

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