Memoryhouse – The Years EP

Memoryhouse - The Years EP

When Memoryhouse’s first incarnation of The Years dropped in February of 2010, it was the recipient of overall critical approval. Referential qualities to dream pop progenitors like the Cocteau Twins? Check. Just enough scrappy electronic drum loops to bestow it with lo-fi cred? Sure. Wistful and sprawling in all the ways that made chillwave such a hot-button topic? You bet. Yet, despite its nod to various forebears and its brevity (4 tracks in 12 minutes), The Years somehow stood out as a singular experience – a hypnotic potpourri of classical songwriting, soporific vocals, and spectral ambience that actually puts it more in line with the frosty aesthetics of Sigur Rós, than the balmy nostalgia of acts like Washed Out or Neon Indian.

In lieu of a sophomore LP promised for last summer that still has yet to arrive (it’s now slated for a 2012 release), Evan Abeele and Denise Nouvion made the jump to Sub Pop Records this year and chose instead to give The Years a makeover. Now closer to 20 minutes in length than 10, the remastered EP features transmogrified mixes of 3 of the original album’s songs, plus 2 robust new tunes that are as mesmerizing as anything else the duo has conjured. The question, as always, is whether a few tinkered oldies and scant new material is justification for shelling out $5.00 on a new CD or digital download.

Like its predecessor, this version of The Years opens with “Sleep Patterns,” which boasts few enhancements save more opulent production. “Lately” eschews its original bedroom intimacy for sparkling piano chords that ripple and undulate for the song’s duration. Only minimalist percussion timbres and the occasional strains of a violin fuse themselves to Nouvion’s melismatic chants. “To the Lighthouse” undergoes the most overt renovation, adopting a noticeably less buoyant aesthetic that seems to somehow coalesce the spirits of Elizabeth Fraser, Dolores O’Riordan, and Hope Sandoval into one song. Nouvion’s lyrics (“Sleep the summer chill / in sheets of linen / hush the static sound / of time dispersing”) adroitly reference both Memoryhouse’s influences and also their penchant for conjuring imagery suited to blissful daydreams.

The EP’s two fresh compositions fall perfectly in line with Memoryhouse’s phosphorescent disposition. “Modern, Normal” imparts a mild trip-hop beat, cavernous bass, and drums soaked with enough reverb to go swimming. “Quiet America” is a demure closer whose presentation of block piano chords and willowy vocals would be far more affecting were it not preceded by four other tracks of a similar bent.

The bottom line?  Anyone who caught this wonderful act the first time would do well to pass on this one. As richly textured and mollifying as The Years is, there’s just not enough fresh material present to make a case for dropping more disposable income on it.  And for those who don’t yet have the original Memoryhouse EP in their library? Pick up the reissue – it’s every bit as poignant as the first pressing, and also boasts a greater quantity of music. The quality, by the way, really can’t be disputed in either circumstance.