Album Review: Majical Cloudz – Impersonator (Pop Press Pick)

majical-cloudz-impersonatorHere’s the thing about Majical Cloudz’ new album Impersonator — I can’t figure out what makes is so irresistibly good. And it very much is. More often than not, my brain over analyzes what makes music great, immediately identifying the subtle synth melody or how tom-driven drumming makes a song more nuanced, but with Majical Cloudz I’m still sort of mystified. Of course, the sounds and loops across the collection of experimental pop tracks are well arranged and sequenced, but there’s something else.

It helps to look for clues in the duo’s live performance, during which Matthew Otto fades into the darkness near the back of the stage, pumping out sound, while Devon Welsh takes the spotlight to deliver lyrics. When the group played in Austin, Welsh stood almost immobile, bowing oddly as he meandered through dark, ominous vocal tones. And people loved it. Not just people who were already fans or who adore off kilter indie music. Concertgoers seemed unilaterally and emphatically drawn to this strange performance, and me with them. I pondered this for days, baffled.

Then, I tried to pinpoint what it was that had me so consumed by Devon Welsh and Majical Cloudz. Memories of his almost shy, awkward directness with the crowd floated to the surface of my consciousness. I thought about the minimal, low-pulsing synths, the slight rhythms, the almost melodies wandering by poetically like a car with a half-flat tire. In their live show, there’s almost no show. A similar conclusion can be drawn about Impersonator. Welsh and Otto have cut away all the fat, and left only minimal flourishes of sound and incredibly naked lyrical performances. What’s arresting is the purity, the earnestness in a world obscured and obstructed by pretense.

On Impersonator, Welsh and Otto are anything but. They have created a direct and immediate collection of hauntingly powerful experimental pop songs, brilliant in their simplicity and minimalism. It’s the subtly and the mystery that keeps us listening, drawn toward the end of a dark hall by an unexpected and faintly glowing light.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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