Memoryhouse‘s first record on Sub Pop is a re-recorded version of The Years, the hazy EP they self-released in digital form in 2010. Two new songs have been added and one from the earlier incarnation, “The Waves,” has been dropped. Without it Virginia Woolf’s presence is halved: “To the Lighthouse” is the only portal left to her. The older songs, while they still dwell in a half-asleep lucidity of smeared impressions, are fuller, given new flesh by more ornate arrangements and instrumentation. The new ones are gaseous, flitting formless and in slow motion across a screen set between two lavish curtains, burgundy and velvet, parted just enough to reveal a pleasant malaise of projected mood.
The Years in its first form kept me warm on numerous occasions. I cannot think of it without thinking of gray skies that it made slightly less foreboding, the company it kept me on empty days that seemed to float by without really registering. It floats as well, this music, but it registers and in registering pulls me back to the past in the same gesture with which it sits me where I am in the present.
Some people with this kind of relationship to the original recordings may find it difficult to acclimate themselves to the new ones, but that is not the case for me. I get the same sense of well-being in being not at peace from them both, and while I may miss the sample from Eternal Sunshine that was the spine of “Lately” in its new rendering, I feel equally at sea and at home, blissed and effaced, in its new depths of chamber grandeur. In their new form they are more immersive if less striking to look at from afar in their lack of the slight brittleness radiated by their earlier, sometimes skeletal selves.
And Denise Nouvion still does something that continues to get me when, in “Lately,” she sings “lately my heart’s been breaking,” and the repeated cliché becomes something graceful and wondrous when it becomes “lately my hearts been breaking through the sea.” This is related to the charm of her singing, “Sometimes I’m pulled away from my own misery, hands cover me, eyes drift slowly/ Sleep the summer chill in sheets of linen, hush the static sound of time dispersing” in “To the Lightouse.” Nobody gets low in quite this way these days. It enchants.
There is without doubt a melancholy that is ribboned with nostalgia in Memoryhouse’s music, and there is a pleasure delivered in their handling and casting of everyday sorrow, in the way that something that seems common reveals itself as anything but. There is plenty of mood-heavy, drifting music with rumination on the past in its genetic code at the moment, and this could be a slight little set of songs drowned out in the roaring nonsense of that expansive sea of whimsy, but it is not drowned out and will not be, at least for me, anytime in the foreseeable future.
Stream: Memoryhouse – “Sleep Patterns”