For all of the accolades and positive press accumulated by Are You Alone? in 2015, you’d have been hard-pressed to find inclusion of Majical Cloudz on any year-end best-of lists. And for some reason, that befits the Montreal duo’s aesthetic – bleak, intimate, love-lorn, and yearning for a cathartic emotional release that will probably never arrive.
So, when the Wait & See EP dropped on Matador out of nowhere in January 2016, I had to parse two schools of thought in order to make sense things:
1) Are they mere leftovers from the full-length?
2) Would they showcase any sort of new direction?
It’s simple – when you follow up a really good album with an unannounced 5-song EP barely 3 months later, people will assume you’re either adding to those earlier musical ideas or wanting to make a hard break from them. Granted, nothing in life will ever be a stark dichotomy, but this was my launching pad for diving into these tracks.
On the surface, Wait & See doubles down on the band’s eerie brand of gloomy and spectral goth-pop. Matthew Otto weaves a glitchy batch of drum breaks beneath layers of aching keyboard chord progressions, synth pads, and hazy sound effects, while the earnest-yet-pained tenor of Devon Welsh concocts the saddest lullabies you might ever hear. And the effect is wholly intoxicating – my wife and I can spin the band’s corpus on repeat for days.
But when you peel back the dense swathes of oddball electronic music, you’re left with a something akin to a folk-pop singer-songwriter. Welsh’s vocals have never been as clear and distinct in the mix, and it enhances how I experience this music. It’s not that stellar tracks like “Heaven” and “My Heart Soaks Up Every Drop of Your Blood” don’t present a more accessible version of the group’s sound (because they do), but it’s more that I’m drawn into the heartbeat of what Welsh and Otto want to do with their music than ever before.
Even with all of the electronic instrumentation at play, Majical Cloudz isn’t interested in coming across as brainy, geeky, or techie – much less alienating. These songs aim for the heart and guts of the listener with a profound intimacy. They take elements of ambient electro, minimalist indie-pop, and classical composition to create something wholly inviting.
The Wait & See EP finds its strength in its emotional vulnerability. It’s very much a pop record drenched in IDM sensibilities, and not only is it unafraid of feeling, it wants to share those feelings with others. Calling to mind a heady blend of FKA Twigs, Brian Eno, James Blake, and Joy Electric, Majical Cloudz has compiled yet another haunting project designed for introverted dark nights of the soul that eventually compel you to reach out to people for a deep emotional connection. There’s beauty in the pain, and that’s an OK thing.
Ultimately, Majical Cloudz does strike out in a new direction with The Wait & See, but it does so with a well-stocked collection of tools and supplies from its earlier efforts. And sometimes, that’s what I want to hear from a band – not “maturing” one’s sound because you’re supposed to, but because that’s where the music leads you.
Stream the Wait & See below.
Despite all of the cliches you might have heard about the place, Adam P. Newton actually enjoys living in Texas – most of the time. He currently creates and curates content for a marketing agency, and in his limited free time, he writes a memoir about his journey through music called “Explaining Grownup Music to Kids.”