Album Reviews - Reviews

Majical Cloudz – Impersonator


“Love me, it’s a sin, can you see me caving in?”

Don’t go into Majical CloudzImpersonator expecting an easy ride. In fact, try not to go into it expecting anything at all – because what the Montreal duo have created here is something so difficult to pigeon-hole, something which is that much more rewarding if it’s approached with an open mind. There are no fireworks, no applause – with Impersonator, vocalist and lyricist Devon Welsh is bringing us into his personal expanse. He describes his creative process as more focussed on “stillness rather than movement.”

It’s a rare example of an album that almost totally embodies the emotion and darkness that its vocal more directly portrays – Welsh’s lyrics very clearly depict an air of sadness and mourning within him, but instead it’s the tone created by each song that leaves the listener so deeply involved. Matthew Otto’s musical backdrops combine with the vocal to create a self-described “cocoon”, completely introverted and forlorn. Welsh has described the track ‘This Is Magic’ as a metaphor for the LP:  “… the message is that there is strength, rather than weakness, in being vulnerable.”

Musically the album is startlingly simple. Tracks mostly consist of only a few electronic elements; simple repeating synth chords, murmuring noise and faceless choruses, subtle background percussion. The contrast with Welsh’s vocals is stark, which feels suitable – the release has a very black-or-white feel from start to finish.  Every sound is a necessary component.

Welsh’s lyrics are the most direct thing about the release. Whilst they may occasionally come across a little cliché, or like entries from a diary, it really only drives home the desperation behind his powerful voice; his words are those of a man unsure of himself and everyone around him, a man afraid to trust in anything. His vocal performance is surely the strongest aspect of the release, and had previously been heard on Grimes’ breakthrough album Visions. His range is wide, and his scope even wider, from the nakedness of ‘I Do Sing For You’ to his cries of anguish on single ‘Childhood’s End’.

While the lyrical content touches on many themes, from death to desire, pervading all of these is the sense that he is just lost in it all – confused by how to behave, how to love, how to mourn. He see’s himself as an outsider, the titular impersonator, and this creation is his confession.

“Bugs don’t buzz when their time approaches; we’ll be just like the roaches my love,” croons Welsh on ‘Bugs Don’t Buzz’. The song shows Welsh at his most expressive vocally, the wobble in his voice not forced but bred by fear. His yearning for companionship on this track is palpable, and the swell of synthesizers behind him at the end of each verse is as driven as it is fleeting. It’s the most direct love song on Impersonator as well, though it is less of a proclamation of love than a shamed admission of it. It’s a moment of brilliance.

This is surely one of the most cerebral and restless releases so far this year. A cheery, summery record it is not, but take the time to uncover its depth, and you will be glad you did. Impersonator is desolate yet deeply moving – an uncommonly unique listening experience. Aaron Hamilton

Impersonator is out now on Matador Records.