Tom Hoskins gives Majical Cloudz’s latest album 3 stars
In their debut album, Majical Cloudz’s lyrics weren’t at all easy to decipher. On last year’s Turns Turns Turns there was a clear change of intention, with Devon Welsh’s voice suddenly becoming a focal point. Impersonator continues in this vein, revolving around his captivating baritone and chilling narratives.
Listening to Welsh’s vocals, it seems strange that he and Matthew Otto – the other half of Majical Cloudz – should ever have chopped and covered them up. His voice deservedly dominates Impersonator, its depth and composure adding further weight to the album’s heavy emotional burden. Opener ‘Impersonator’ shows Majical Cloudz’s development, with Otto delivering direct confessions over a glitchy vocal loop. His self-referential lyrics show his music to be his life – “This song is proof that I’m trying” – but he is still self-deprecating, regarding both as unimpressive. He claims “I’m a liar / I say I make music” and later mocks the vocal loop, imitating it with a sneer.
This self-referential nature recurs throughout. Aided by the sparse backing, Majical Cloudz conjure up a dark and lonely internal world, using music as a medium for confession and for truthful declaration of matters too painful, or simply too difficult, to admit face-to-face. Unsurprisingly, this landscape is bleak and dangerous (“I hear a murderer walk/ I hear his footsteps talk through the floorboards in my house, and he climbs the stairs”) but it doesn’t exclude all optimism. “The happiest songs all end with a smile. This might end with a smile”, concedes Welsh on highlight ‘Bugs Don’t Buzz’. At times he derives pleasure by acknowledging the importance of his own effort in life, even if he will never be loved.
If the lyrics or Welsh’s voice were any different, this music might not work. With the exception of ‘Mister’’s electronic gallop, the backing is a musical and emotional support for Welsh, providing assurance and also space for reflection as it continues with little variation. This can drag, such as on ‘Silver Rings’, but more often than not it is successful, the music’s repetition helping Welsh build courage to sing his confessions. The minimal backing makes his bluntness more poignant: “Hey man, sooner or later you’ll be dead” uttered over organ chords and a bass drone heightens the fragile mortality. ‘Childhood’s End’ gains its beauty from the shockingly compatible combination of the narrative – “Someone died, gunshot, right outside, your father, he is dead” – and the calm and consistent electronic arpeggios. Impersonator sees Majical Cloudz revealing their lonely, bleak world; yet as their music, one of few things remaining in their isolation, succeeds, there is still some light and hope.