Step Right Up: Majical Cloudz
“Impersonator” is the second album by Montreal-based Majical Cloudz, available now on the Matador label.
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
Majical Cloudz is the nom de plume for Montreal songwriter Devon Welsh, whose full-length release, ‘Impersonator’ undoubtedly represents one of the most unique voices of 2013. Sonically, the music is wonderfully minimal – quite often a synthesizer, laptop and looping effects are utilized – amidst the atmospheric and beguiling vocals of Welsh. The effect is utterly transcendent; recalling fellow luminaries such as How To Dress Well and James Blake. ‘Impersonator’ is one of those rare records that exudes raw emotion, where themes of loss, love, desire, pain, death encircle the human headspace of Welsh’s masterful lyrics. In the words of Welsh: “the message is that there is strength, rather than weakness, in being vulnerable.”
Magical Cloudz came into existence a short time ago, when Welsh joined with Mathew Otto to collaboratively produce and perform his songs. In May of last year ‘II’ was released and ‘Turns Turns Turns’ EP quickly followed in December, whose title-track is contained on ‘Impersonator’. Welsh: “Musically, I wanted to try saying ‘no’ to possibilities, and create negative space in the songs to put the emphasis on the voice and lyrics.”
The majority of ‘Impersonator’ was written at Welsh’s father’s house in rural Ontario, in the basement during the stillness of night. “One day I realized I had 15-20 songs, and they made me feel like I had overcome the dead end I thought I was in. I started realizing that I could say anything I want in a song.” The power of song is precisely what embodies ‘Impersonator’. As Welsh sings “Won’t someone come for me” on ‘Childhood’s End’, I feel the aching sense of longing etched across the sonic canvas. Loneliness is painted on ‘Notebook”s very pages: “How much do I have to love to grow?/Will I be alone forever?” The song’s intimacy leaves me dumbfounded, in a similar way ‘I Am A Bird Now’ by Antony and the Johnsons cast such a magnificent spell several moons ago.
The set of captivating songs on ‘Impersonator’ are songs about humanness, where the spirit of Elliot Smith radiates vividly throughout. Interestingly, Welsh cites Elliott Smith and Arthur Russell as his major influences. The honest and bare lyrics of Welsh are deeply personal and steeped in darkness, yet are filled with hope, much in the same way as Smith. The gorgeous blend of Welsh’s vocals with synths, loops and samples, recalls the visionary work of Arthur Russell, where the sonic layers intertwine to create one organic whole. The aim for this record was “to try to make something without obvious movement; where the music isn’t overstuffed sonically or referentially, it’s emptied out as much as possible. It’s not meant to energize and turn you out to the world, it’s meant to do the opposite; it’s more like a cocoon.”
The Montreal music scene, as ever is brimming with a stellar cast of groundbreaking artists, such as Doldrums, Grimes, Mac Demarco and Blue Hawaii to name but a few. ‘Impersonator’ is a truly remarkable album from a unique songwriting talent. “Never let surroundings bring you down / You and me won’t be here forever / Love will conquer these feelings” is a lyric from ‘Notebook’ that epitomizes the humanness of Majical Cloudz’s masterful songcraft.
‘Impersonator’ is out now on Matador.