CANADIAN ELECTRONIC DUO Majical Cloudz makes music that exists on binary spectrums: sound and silence, vulnerability and emotional distance, black and white.
"The music is intentionally muted in certain ways," vocalist Devon Welsh says via email. That "muted" quality carries over to the band's black-and-white promotional photos and music videos, which share a starkness with Welsh's closely shorn hair and intense gaze. Even Welsh's email responses are brief—almost guarded.
Collaborator Matthew Otto joined Welsh in 2012, and in October they released the sixth Majical Cloudz studio record, the critically acclaimed Are You Alone? on Matador Records. Last week, they followed it up with Wait and See, an EP of material recorded during the album sessions. Like other Majical Cloudz work, the album and EP resemble hardcore punk ideologically in their willingness to nakedly confront sadness, but the resulting music couldn't sound more different. Where punk rock uses noise, Majical Cloudz employ quiet; where hardcore protests socio-economic injustice, Majical Cloudz are intensely and compulsively personal. But there's an economy in Majical Cloudz's songwriting, alongside a willingness to expose personal truths and shortcomings, which is undeniably post-punk.
Over largely ambient and textural electronic soundscapes (think Depeche Mode without the disco, or Brian Eno with a tune), Welsh confesses uncomfortable secrets with lyrics so sincere you don't mind the over-sharing. "I'm broken, I feel it, I am," Welsh sings in "Heavy." From the Joy Division-style "Control," Welsh sings, "Can I try to be you?/Can I dress up in your clothes and be somebody new?"
"I'm mostly just trying to say what comes naturally, in ways that are interesting," Welsh says. "The music is somewhat autobiographical. It's about things that are not made up, but it's not always about myself."
The contradictions of the music come to light in "Silver Car Crash" when Welsh somberly sings, "I never show it/but I am always laughing." Not since Morrissey has a car crash sounded so romantic, as Welsh continues, "I want to kiss you/inside a car that's crashing."
"So Blue" is the rare Majical Cloudz song that fits into easy pop structures and formulas. "Try not to be so blue," Welsh sings in the chorus. But Welsh's never-ending quest for connection continues. In "Heavy," he sings: "You hear me, you see me, you can." And there's the confession in "Silver Car Crash": "I will be honest/I am afraid of love."
"Inspiration just comes out of the process itself," says Welsh. "Just sitting down and working on things." All the while, Welsh remains keenly aware that being damaged goods is all part of the human condition. "You gotta learn to love me, 'cause I am what I am," he warns in "Heavy."
When the power cut out during Majical Cloudz's 2014 performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival, Welsh took the opportunity to sing a cappella, a story that has only added to the mythological status of the band's live performances—balancing an air of mystery with raw expression.
"There is less to hide behind in the sense that there is less going on onstage," Welsh says, describing the band's minimalist approach to shows, "so it's more focused on the vocals. But that's by intention."