Northern Irish artist Lilla Vargen has this past few months, burst into life with her live performances and a debut single. It has been a most welcome activity as the song and shows have resonated and she’s not ready to stop there.
Majical Cloudz’s ‘Downtown’ is already a devastatingly effective song in the hand’s of the now defunct Canadian duo. Lilla Vargen’s version doesn’t change much of the original’s as it doesn’t need much work. Instead, she heightens the song’s backing arrangements and sings the song in her own way.
Lilla Vargen on Downtown:
“I think it’s one of the most honest love songs I have ever heard. When I listened to it first, I just understood it straight away. The simplicity of the song speaks volumes. I heard it again on that show The OA recently and I just sort of knew I wanted to cover it. I wasn’t sure how it would sound but when I got to the studio with Nick and we started to plan it out, it all came together really quickly.”
Majical Cloudz’s Impersonator was one of the best records of 2013. The Canadian duo’s album had a confessional sincerity that was matched with serene warm arrangements.
It sounds like the first track from the new album Are You Alone? continues that heady sound. ‘Silver Car Crash’, with its name taken from a Warhol painting, is a wonderfully candid song, with Devon Welsh, morbidly singing “I want to kiss you / inside a car that’s crashing and we will both die laughing / cos there is nothing left to do,” as stirring angelic voices rise to the occasion.
Welsh’s lyrics get to the heart of love, with its close connection becoming the only thing that matters (“I am always perfect / when I am holding on to you.”). It’s a beautiful intimate track, that few new bands can match. Are You Alone? is out October 16th on Matador.
The questionably-named Majical Cloudz don’t have much else that’s in question. This year’s Matador-released Impersonator from the Montreal duo Devon Welsh and Matthew Otto is one of the year’s brittle best, offers confessional poetic sincerity set to serene and warm arrangements.
They’ve yet to make it to Ireland, but having seen their show at SXSW, they were one of the best live bands I’ve seen this year and they often play this song ‘Savage’ in a live setting. It didn’t feature on the album, so they’ve released it online.
“Savage” is about a friendship, its mysteries and its moments of excitement, and the way drugs played into all of it. It’s about letting go of a relationship as it changes and the emotions that go along with that.
Like the Montreal duo’s intense live show, Impersonator is like being stuck inside the head of a fascinatingly dark-edged soul.
During a Majical Cloudz show, Devon Welsh is under the spotlight, both literally and figuratively. Matthew Otto joins him on stage for the duo’s live shows as musical accompaniment but it’s Welsh’s cathartic delivery that is the focus. Physically aided by a shaved head, an intense set of eyes, a white t-shirt and a static stance, Welsh’s presence is uncomfortable. And then he sings in a enveloping croon that holds the air. Full review & Spotify stream.. →
Majical Cloudz were one of my main highlights from SXSW (see my top 20). Their brilliant live show was intense with Devon Welsh’s piercing gaze and dark-edged lyrics set to Matthew Otto’s gossamer productions.
First single and free download ‘Childhood’s End’ showcases that heavy weight subject matter with the opening line “someone died / gunshot / right outside / your father / he is dead / I see him / in my head,” while a brooding minimal electronic arrangement works its way around the listener. It’s taken from their album Impersonator out on Matador Records on May 17. Welsh explains their minimalist approach:
In the last few years there’s been a massive explosion of amazing music made with computers, samplers and other electronic equipment. The possibilities became nearly endless and musicians indulged those possibilities. I love that kind of music but it also started to overwhelm me. I wasn’t cut out for the maximalist expressions of that style. So I took a break from music, and when I started again it was to make music that barely existed and felt like stillness more than movement. Where the songs could be more about humanness. I love all forms of electronic music, techno, house, rave, hip-hop, but I never want to feel like the music I’m making is just about stylistic play. The easiest way for me to do that is try to make something without obvious movement; where the music isn’t overstuffed sonically or referentially, it’s emptied out as much as possible. So the vision for Impersonator was to communicate a lot with as little as possible. It’s not meant to energize and turn you out to the world, it’s meant to do the opposite; it’s more like a cocoon.
When I’m asked why I go to Austin for South By Southwest, the answer is basically: to see as many new bands as possible. The festival features over 2000 bands playing over 10 days so I try take in as much as I can. You can see/read myself, Una Mullally, Finian Murphy and 45 Sound’s SXSW coverage over at Red Bull Ireland including some video interviews and sessions.And pick up Day & Night on Friday for an interview from SXSW with Little Green Cars from myself. On with the good stuff…