Majical Cloudz bring brooding sound to NXNE for Saturday gig at the BLK BOX
By: Nick Krewen Music, Published on Fri Jun 14 2013
Sparse has rarely sounded so satiating.
Of the numerous adjectives used to describe the brooding, intense music on Majical Cloudz’ new full-length platter Impersonator, its relative lack of instrumentation and arrangement has drawn the most attention when garnering praise from music critic circles.
CBC Music declared Impersonator to be “beautiful in its bareness, but with a lyrical depth that rewards close listening,” while Stereogum called it “harrowingly intimate.”
Rolling Stone agreed, lauding Impersonator as “confrontationally intimate” and conjecturing that singer and songwriter Devon Welsh’s goal was to “strip the world down to two people and try to stop time.”
It’s not too surprising that the magazine drew that conclusion: The sound of Impersonator is almost Gothic.
Welsh’s commanding baritone is unavoidably front-and-centre in each of the album’s 11 tracks, with song’s musical arrangement varying from thick, vocal loops that swirl around his voice for the title track. Singular organ tones with faint pulses of rhythm power “This Is Magic,” and although slightly quicker, more convoluted time signatures and a fuller keyboard accompaniment pace numbers like the bleak “Childhood’s End” and “Mister.”
For the Montreal-based Welsh, however, it’s all an end to a means.
“Performance is probably the most important part of the band to me,” says Welsh, who will back his statement with a Saturday midnight performance with his Majical Cloudz cohort Matthew Otto at BLK BOX as part of NXNE.
“In that moment, I’m trying to establish a connection with the audience, and not an empty formal scenario where a band just comes up on stage and performs as if the audience doesn’t exist or matter.”
Possessing an almost unnerving stare when he takes to the stage, according to numerous reports from U.S. media, even Welsh appreciates the irony of projecting his innermost feelings on a group of strangers night after night.
“There’s something psychologically bizarre about writing really intimate confessional music and then taking it on tour and playing it for different people,” notes Welsh, a 24-year-old former student of Concordia University’s Religion program.
After releasing a couple of projects, including an EP last year called Turn Turn Turn, Welsh decided to dig even deeper into himself for Impersonator.
“Introspection seems like a cliché, but it’s probably the more honest answer,” Welsh offers. “I can’t really point anything out. It was more of a reaction to the music I had done previously. I wanted to make songs that limited the sounds to something plain and grey, and that would allow the lyrics and vocals to be at the forefront of what was happening.
“This was more exploratory in terms of the sonics — how colourful could something sound, or the possibilities in terms of writing on guitar instead of working with synthesizers and learning what the parameters of making music bring in general.
“I just had a clearer picture in my head of what I wanted to do right from the beginning.”
Majical Cloudz first came about five years ago, and Welsh admits the strange — and considered by some to be silly — name was an afterthought.
“It’s funny because when you look at hip-hop artists, names are spelled like that all the time,” he states. “But the name dates back to 2008: Me and my friend Matthew Duffy were doing some things in Halifax, and we needed a name to write down what we were doing. A year later we were recording, so I used that name and it just kind of stuck around. I just took it over for stuff I was working on by myself.
“I’d rather have a name that people scoff at rather than one designed to establish your indie rock cred. Then they’ll listen to the music and (you) changed their minds about it.”
Raised in Uxbridge Ont., Welsh met keyboardist and producer Otto while he attended Concordia, and also became acquainted with Claire Boucher, better known as Grimes, which led to some music released by Arbutus Records.
“Matthew was studying music at Concordia University, and he helped me mix and produce some stuff in the past. So when I had some of these songs, I started sending them to him to see if he was interested in collaborating. We had done a few shows together and we’d discovered that we had complementary music skills.”
Welsh says Impersonator is just the beginning.
“I think there’s a lot more for me to work on in terms of craft. I’ve achieved some goals on Impersonator, but I’m still in pursuit of the perfect song.”