Majical Cloudz’s show, bumped up from the Cobalt to a sold-out Imperial, captivated. In tow with close-knits Booker T on Acid and She-Devils, the three acts were held together by a shared conceit. Each drew listeners, held tight by spectacle and a venue at full capacity, into worlds with fraying seams, with voices in fingers that play with these seams, or jab at them with white-knuckled fists.
Booker T on Acid, who made their live debut here, are a project channeling Booker T through psychedelic pastiche. Matt Padadopoulos and Curtis Holland (though JJJ, a producer with the band, substituted for Holland on this night) were worlding in an off-kilter sense. Think beach carnivalesque: Tom Recchion’s melting tape loops, optimism punctuated by collapsing instrumentals, blown out samples. The evening’s surrogate singer kept it regular, with a laconic poise admitting a smidge of tongue-in-cheek to the viewers — numbered around 20 at this point, each at far ends of the room. Luckily BToA’s music is conducive to feeling as if it’s being listened to by no one in particular. It’s fun house hauntings occupying a ballroom with funereal motifs on the wall: two men on stage beside an invisible organ, vacillating between ascetic fervour and cool composure. They handled the crowd (lack thereof) perfectly.
Further emphasizing Majical Cloudz’s partiality, fellow friends of the band, She-Devils, debuted in Vancouver for a gathering audience. Carrying on BToA’s undercurrent of nostalgia and menace, She-Devils actively plied the razor’s edge between Audrey Ann’s coy imperiousness and Kyle Jukka’s fucked ’60s surf-pop loops. Ann’s ability to slide into the creaks and rattles of her otherwise powerful voice, over hypnotic repetition, allowed her to creep between chanteuse superego and id in the course of a song, made explicit with bursts of noise from Jukka. The sound was wonderful: in the Imperial’s enclosure of smoke and bodies, samples of vinyl crackle broached the link between dream nostalgia and analog’s reminder of physicality.
Distinguishing themselves from the opening acts, Majical Cloudz’s minimalism is non-referential. The emotive punch of Devon Welsh’s lyrics and Matthew Otto’s production are paeans to emotion meets street reportage. Spartan arrangements, in that roomless space, emerged with such dense affect so as to communicate worlds immediately. Otto’s single notes had a punctual oomph, whereas warped ambience — and even surges of noise — were warm, vulnerable.
Welsh’s voice, resonant and straightforward, was a highlight. When Welsh screamed, startling hundreds, it was unassuming, without the pretense of Byronic mania. His high baritone was pliant, soaring in an emotionally mature way, never maudlin. His falsetto was sobering, his lyrics matter-of-fact over the waves of synth and insistent beats. Welsh’s physical performance, pointed stances and stilted rhythmic motions belied the typical spectator-stage relationship. Awkward banter and miscalculations (three songs left, or is it five?) came off like nods to the absurdity of bedroom-pop for a large venue.
As such, unlike other sculptors of light and dark, Majical Cloudz seemed uninterested in actively characterizing their persona. Live, the duo channelled the rapport of musicians tuned into one another towards their audience, as amenable acquaintances. Given the saturation of strangers, the haze between one another and the band ahead of us, it was likely the truest kindness to commit.