PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Majical Cloudz: Impersonator

Canadian electro-minimalists Majical Cloudz’ debut for Matador, Impersonator, is the confessional album for the age of austerity.


Majical Cloudz

Impersonator

Label: Matador
US Release Date: 2013-05-21
UK Release Date: 2013-05-27
Amazon
iTunes

Impersonator is at once an odd name for the debut by the Montreal-based Majical Cloudz. (To get the obvious out of the way, yes, the spelling is silly.) If one resorted to the same economy of words that so defines this LP, this duo would be best described as "direct". Lead singer Devon Welsh -- whose resemblance to Mark Strong is a little more than passing -- has become well known for his on-stage presence, which elicits reactions ranging from the awed to the humored. When I saw Welsh and his Majical Cloudz compatriot Matthew Otto (on beats and electronics) perform with Autre Ne Veut earlier this year in Portland, the crowd responded more toward the extreme of that continuum: with fear. As Welsh scanned the audience slowly, his eyes locking on each attendee with the precision of a cruise missile, gazes were averted, stances were shuffled, and whispers were passed around the tiny crowd. Suddenly, Welsh wasn’t just performing music, it was as if he was having one-on-one conversations with everyone present. It was something the audience wasn’t expecting -- and, it appeared, certainly not ready for. Few singers assert their presence in the way Welsh does: the discomfort the audience had came from the perception not that he was hiding something, but that he wasn't hiding anything at all.

Majical Cloudz’ recent live shows are indicative of the blossoming in the duo’s style that forms the core of Impersonator. Whereas on past outings like the full-length II and the EP Turns Turns Turns Welsh’s voice was spliced and submerged amidst Otto’s electronics, but here he’s front and center, dominating the music with his often booming pipes. "Bugs don’t buzz when their time approaches," he intones on the Baudelarian social observation of album highlight "Bugs Don’t Buzz", "We’ll be just like the roaches, my love." The juxtaposition between the quietness of the backing instrumentation and Welsh’s vocals is a basic one, but it never comes off as facile; in fact, the weakest songs on the record ("Turns Turns Turns" and the title track) are the ones where his voice is modified in some way. Majical Cloudz work best in the minimal arts, and with Impersonator they’ve made the confessional album for the age of austerity.

Welsh and Otto here mine a bevy of potent topic areas. The record’s sparest track, "This Is Magic", recalls the nightmares of childhood to reflect on old haunts that haven't shaken off. Lead single "Childhood’s End" uses a subdued and catchy beat to back the telling of a father being shot outside with his son in a store. These stories are where Impersonator packs its heaviest. As a result of this, one might be inclined to think of Otto’s role in Majical Cloudz’ music as nothing more than background noise or as a glorified karaoke machine, and it's easy for one to be lured in by Welsh's consummate singing. Otto's presence, however, is anything but that -- without his pad synths, beats, and sonic bleeps, Welsh’s vocals would be floating, without the proper context to ground his weighty words. Otto draws out one of the key balancing acts that occurs on this record, namely the tension between the introspective and the conversational. As with the duo’s live performances, Welsh sounds like he’s talking directly to the listener, but at the same time he is still processing these events. He himself recognizes his own inability to fully grasp his thoughts. "Bugs Don’t Buzz" opens with the intimidating, "The cheesiest songs all end with a smile / This won’t end with a smile, my love," only later to hint otherwise: "The happiest songs all end with a smile / This might end with a smile, my love."

In this way, Impersonator is an album of intriguing paradox. Its ingredients are so simple that it might have been made in a home or garage studio, but Majical Cloudz’ sound is so uniquely and deliberately crafted that it’s unlikely just anyone with ProTools could do the same. Welsh’s simple sentence-centric lyrics are nothing a budding writer couldn’t imitate, but his delivery is more akin to the terse yet resonant style of Ernest Hemingway. For whatever these songs may seem to be -- remembrances of mourning, reflections on the underclass, or even a simple plea -- there’s always a lingering sense of something else, an echo of a hidden power beneath the obvious. Welsh’s straightforwardness, despite the many things it communicates, is the impersonator: concealing a fact for every sliver of truth it reveals. "I’m a liar, I say I make music," he confesses on the title track. One has to wonder, then, what else just might be going on.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.