Majical Cloudz - Impersonator

Each note on ‘Impersonator’ is pronounced, bellowed from the proverbial hills.

Label: Matador

Rating: 7

Although by no means the first musician to live by these means, with his 2012 ‘Turns Turns Turns’ EP Devon Welsh took, quite aptly, a turn. He was smart enough to remove himself from hazy, shrouded production that had previously defined his songs, instead opting for a direct confessional approach, with vocals at the top of the mix.

It just so happens that Welsh possesses one hell of a voice. Each note on ‘Impersonator’ is pronounced, bellowed from the proverbial hills. Welsh was trained to project his voice while studying theatre. Even at the very depths of his range these vocals soar above the surrounding, intentionally grey areas. It’s so true to its sound, this record, that it’ll alienate a fair few. If you’re not comfortable with the opening minute of ‘Impersonator’, chances are the rest of it isn’t going to provide much of a service. It’s the equivalent of someone staring in, tapping your inners and trying to examine your thoughts. Or a drunken stranger who enters a bar and starts recounting all their childhood tales. Back off, dude, you’re tempted to say. 

At first it is uncomfortable, upfront to the point of no return. But in ‘Impersonator’ there’s beauty, in the melting production that accompanies Devon’s pronouncements, and in the stories he tells. Adapt to Welsh and you adapt to one hell of a record. ‘This Is Magic’ and the title-track are testing opening moments. They don’t strictly go anywhere. Chords are sparse, light and muffled. All while the frontman details seeing ‘monsters stand over’ his crib, and telling quick fibs (‘I’m a liar I say I make music’). If it weren’t for these sudden jolts of consciousness, these lines that make you sit upright or at least frame a gentle smile, there’d be nothing to latch onto. Even if this is out of intention, it’s a brave, almost foolish move.

If the two opening tracks aren’t an entry point, ‘Childhood’s End’ most certainly is. Although you’ve reason to respect Welsh’s sparse production, refusal to overwhelm the listener, it’s in a song such as this that he finds momentum. And, damn the system, it’s because it has a pulse; quickened drum patterns, short statements like ‘your father / he is dead’ that summon the listener into sudden despair. Occasionally he’ll strike gold when refusing to adapt to big, bolshy production. ‘I Do Sing For You’ gets by on reversed guitar parts and softly-softly chimes. Welsh has an incredible knack for drawing oddball melodies out of the gutter and into unchartered territory, none more so than here.

Without entirely dismissing the minimal route he treads, it’s hard to declare what’s missing exactly from this record. Even when ‘Turns Turns Turns’ or the astonishingly upfront ‘Bugs Don’t Buzz’ offer vital, personal refuge, an evil, grating side to you will crave a crescendo, a clamouring climax all coloured and epic. Majical Cloudz is the antithesis of such, but when he flirts with dangerous grey areas, he actually ends up striking gold. ‘Impersonator’ is sadly scarce of these occasions, but when valued as a direct proposal and a coherent piece, it rarely lets slip.