Majical Cloudz has a way of reducing listeners to sobbing messes. On the Montreal duo’s website, a fan identified only as Juliette shared her visceral reaction to its most recent long-player, Impersonator: “Last night I was listening to your album and started crying for the first time in over a year. This isn’t a bad thing. I connected so much to your words and music that I felt like I could finally start to feel all the things I had been numb to.”
Singer Devon Welsh is probably used to this sort of response by now. “Most music, if it’s doing its job, offers some kind of emotional-release strategy,” he says when the Straight reaches him in Montreal, where he and his musical partner, Matthew Otto, are preparing for a drive to Toronto. “Dance music—you dance to it. That’s the emotional release. Aggressive music—you mosh to it. Music offers strategies of release, and our music doesn’t offer either of those strategies that I’ve just named, but instead musically it’s pretty still. It’s quiet. There’s not a lot going on. It offers an emotional release that is more introspective.”
Indeed, Impersonator seems tailored for those nights when the Sominex isn’t working and the inevitable soul-searching marathon begins in earnest. The songs are built on a foundation of minimalist keyboard parts and ambient loops, with the odd bare-bones beat. That puts Welsh’s untrained but expressive voice front and centre. He uses that powerful tool to convey sentiments that are made all the more poignant by their unvarnished simplicity. “Somebody knows who I am/Somebody sees me and wants to be my friend,” Welsh sings on “This Is Magic”, while on “Bugs Don’t Buzz” he asks a significant other, “If life could be forever one instant/Would it be the moment you met me?” before providing the answer himself: “No, my love.”
No wonder Majical Cloudz has a reputation for leaving its fans in tears, and not just in the privacy of their bedrooms. It’s not unusual for concert attendees to watch the duo through eyes reddened from crying. Welsh puts it down to his emotional honesty, which he says provides the human element to a style of music that, by its very nature, doesn’t otherwise leave much room for spontaneity.
“We play the same set every night,” he says. “We don’t improvise. We don’t play covers. So that’s predetermined. But I like to, at least in my own mind, go into the show feeling like I’m staying true to my own emotional state and not acting in bad faith as a performer when I go on-stage, and not just pretending that I feel a certain way when I don’t. I just try to stay open to communicating how I feel to the audience, and not go in with a predetermined script of what I’ll say.”
In that way, Welsh says, every Majical Cloudz show is different. So there’s no guarantee that any given night will become a cathartic sobfest. Still, it couldn’t hurt to come prepared with your own pocket pack of Kleenex, just in case.