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They say it’s the people that speak the quietest that really make you listen, and the ones you should indeed be listening to. Devon Welsh is one of those people. With the disarming, calm demeanour of a horse whisperer, he will have you ready to feel all the emotions you have to feel. On Are You Alone he’ll have you sitting silent and still.
With Welsh’s poignant vocals and Otto’s lush, unhurried production Majical Cloudz have hit upon the perfect recipe for emotional connection on Are You Alone?
Welsh and producer Matthew Otto teamed up to form Majical Cloudz and Are You Alone is their second full-length album. Their first, Impersonator, was a success that showcased the power of simple compositions and endearing, emotional lyrics. Their live shows soon became a symbol for intimacy as Welsh often stripped his soul bare in order to reach his audience, who heard him louder than any screaming rocker.
We get more of the same here but with subtle changes. Their sound has always been based in synth-pop but it has broadened slightly while rounding off the sharp edges. It’s not as stark, not as raw. Overall it’s a softer, more enveloping atmosphere.
We should mention, this is not music that everybody will get on board with (although they should). Marginally pacier than a glacier at times, it moves around you like mist rolls over hills during perpetual night. In fact the best way to describe this album is to say it’s a landscape. You trek across terrain that remains very similar (even the songs are all almost identical in length), but of course there are always ups and downs and secret things to find.
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Ultimately though, it’s about the process of the journey rather than the start or the destination. This is music for people who simply want to feel, and don’t mind if that feeling is sadness. Because it is a sad album, just as Impersonator was, but it’s a continuing reminder that sadness can be something to enjoy, something that completes us. Without it, we wouldn’t know happiness.
Majical Cloudz are a perfect example of how simplicity in music is done right. Somehow they convey depth, portray space, and create complexity with about three sounds. It’s amazing how minimalism, in music, literature, or film always seems to the best way to be profound. Walsh’s voice certainly helps, direct and honest, he sweeps away obstacles between himself and you. But it’s the way the two work together that is ‘majical’. If Welsh is the strength then Otto’s production is the weapon that gives him that strength.
One can’t helped but be touched by the tenderness with which Majical Cloudz approach their music. On Control, Welsh considerably asks “Is this going too slow, you think so but we won’t speed it up, no no,” and there’s no need to because the album is like a fifty minute scalp massage. You can sit back and close your eyes. Think about whatever you want to think about. Let a tear slide down your face if you need to, Welsh doesn’t mind. In fact that’s what he’s here for.
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So Blue is a standout on the album and it’s where you really feel the patience of the music. It’s easy to imagine the song as an expansive pop song but they hold back, gently sprawling out rather than soaring upwards and this decision keeps the emotion where you can touch it, instead of chasing it. Heavy is brilliant too, and perhaps one of the most heartfelt as Welsh beautifully sheds lines like “I’m not heavy I’m nothing, you lift me, you can / I feel unsteady, you hear me, just give me your hand / You gotta learn to love me, cos I am what I am.”
Acceptance is something everyone needs to learn a little better and this album is a good lesson in it. Welsh and Otto are unflinching with the ethereal sound they want to create so expect or want this album to be dynamic. It may only be doing one thing but what it’s doing is so, so good.
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