Majical Cloudz is the musical project of Montreal-based songwriter Devon Welsh, with producer and live collaborator Matthew Otto. Their introspective brand of synth-driven music is characterized by an almost architectural desire for balance, crafting songs that are as sonically minimal as they are emotionally complex, equally reliant on negative, hollow space and lush, warm textures. Welsh bares his soul through carefully articulated stories, oriented around themes of death, patience, family and desire. Their live performance is deeply expressive and raw, Welsh's rich baritone woven into intricate stories amidst washes of white noise, filtered synths and sparse thuds.
The tempered beauty of their music envelops you in a haze of emotion and nuance. Having recently signed with Matador Records in the US and being selected to appear at the prestigious South By Southwest festival in March, they are clearly poised to impact the alternative music scene in 2013.
The duo came to my attention when they teamed up with Grimes on the magnificent 'Nightmusic' last year.
"She (Claire Boucher of Grimes) and I "work" really well together, when we've made music together. I've ended up doing things I would never normally do on my own. But it was never work, or with a view to the music being heard by lots of people", said Devon during a conversation we had last week.
In early 2012, while still working as a solo artist under the Majical Clouds moniker, he released his first full-length, II.
""II" was me learning how to produce music properly. That said, I wasn't very far along; I'm still not very far along. I wrote and recorded it without the intention to play any of it live -- it was just made to "make an album", which was what my friends and I did in those days. You record as much as you can, do your best with it, and release it on the internet. It's a friendly competition.", he added modestly.
Later in the year, his friend Matthew Otto came on board for live performances and began making contributions to the recording process for the Turns, Turns, Turns EP.
"He (Otto) sees details in music that I never even think about, so working with him on recordings and playing live is amazing. We have a really good natural chemistry with music -- we understand each other and have complementary strengths. He sees the vision I'm describing.", said Welsh, describing the impact that Otto has had on his music.
Synth-driven music at it's worst, can sound soulless and impersonal. However, Majical Cloudz is everything you'd ever want from this genre. Anytime a musician references Black Flag, in discussing his approach to music, it's fair to assume they're approaching it from a different angle.
"The intention of a band like Minor Threat or Black Flag is something I strive for. To take the intentions of that kind of hardcore but direct it inward instead of outward. To strip away everything to get to a core of energy and emotion", said Welsh.
But the music of Majical Cloudz certainly isn't "punk" in the sense of those U.S. punk legends. Instead he achieves his goal by delving into subjects that are deeply personal. It's this determination to approach the genre with an emotional and meaningfull intentions that make them a band to watch in 2013.
As Devon concluded, "I respect songwriters that sing from a fictional perspective or from the point-of-view of someone else, but I never do that. If I'm going to sing about it and feel something it needs to be coming from my personal world".
To read the full transcript of the interview and for more information on the group, visit The Dumbing of America.