Majical Cloudz: Are You Alone?

- If it seems like all of Majical Cloudz’ songs are the same, it’s because they sort of are. This may seem like a diss, but it’s not really. It’s definitely a kind of criticism, and I think it’d be anyone’s biggest qualm with the Montreal duo, but it’s not totally that simple. Yes, all of their songs are texturally quite similar, and yes, Devon Welsh always uses the words “I” and “you” and “we”, and yes, he always seems to be asking questions of the people those pronouns belong to. There’s no real range to his melodies – they’re always stepwise. He’s just meandering around, almost talking to himself.

Despite all of this, you couldn’t really say that Majical Cloudz is an outfit that lacks ideas, or the courage to branch out stylistically. Welsh’s insistence on ramming home his stationary melodicism and quiet probing, and Matthew Otto’s meticulous, weightless soundscapes are the tropes of two creatively entwined people who know exactly what they’re setting out to do, and are working solemnly and unerringly on doing it. Majical Cloudz is less a band, more a project.

As on cuts like Disappeared and Silver Car Crash, where the lyrics feel like they’re meant to be deliberately confusing, they’re honing in on moments of true, unidentifiable, sad weirdness; the moments when your brain doesn’t feel like a proper home or something. The emotional craziness is palpable. It feels like a small brick being dropped on your foot. It doesn’t hurt enough to make you scream out in pain, but it hurts enough to make you really annoyed and unable to not ask yourself, “Why did that even happen?”

The other choice moments worth mentioning include Downtown, the potential grandeur of whose title is completely downplayed by the trudging, crippled beat, and penultimate track Game Show, which feels like an earth-shattering reality check in song format. The bass in that song, while as subdued as absolutely everything else in the mix, rips through with an intensity matched only by Welsh’s searing vocal. “You don’t know what you’re doing,” he says, audibly quivering. Indeed.

So maybe Majical Cloudz haven’t delivered their “thing” as successfully or as consistently as they did on their last record, 2013’s completely back-to-back solid Impersonator, but Are You Alone is worth sitting through for those fleeting, disturbing moments of realness – because no one else making music right now provides it in quite the same brutally honest way.

- Joe Saxby.

Album Details

Album Title: Are You Alone?
Artist: Majical Cloudz
Record Label: (Matador / Remote Control