Rock Roundup

Majical Cloudz and Lorde, a Peculiar Pairing

Naked vulnerability in a cold bed of beats comes to the BMO Harris Pavilion

By - Sep 22nd, 2014 02:05 pm
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Week’s Top Show: Majical Cloudz (opening for Lorde) at BMO Harris Pavilion, Friday, September 26

I’m still feeling out the connection between Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, a.k.a. Lorde, the 17-year-old New Zealand singer-songwriter who shot to prominence with this—

—and Majical Cloudz, the Montreal duo whose latest single, “Savage,” goes like this

—but even if the connection remains nebulous, I’m still happy the latter is the opener on the former’s current run of American tour dates. I’ve been trying to get people to listen to Majical Cloudz since before their second LP, Impersonator, came out in May 2013; Lorde is doing the same on a much larger scale.

Majical Cloudz started as a side project for Devon Welsh, a producer who collaborated with Grimes (now a particularly bright indie-pop light) and many other Montreal musicians on tracks he eventually assembled into the first MC disc, II, in 2011.

Yet it wasn’t until Matthew Otto turned Majical Cloudz into a firm twosome that Welsh’s deep, melancholic voice found a righteous home within musical arrangements of isolated starkness. The Turns Turns Turns EP introduced this new sound in 2012.

Outside of Canada, the real introduction was “Childhood’s End,” the first single from Impersonator:

I’ve listened to it hundreds of times and am still chilled by the naked vulnerability and hurt Welsh conveys inside a cold bed of beats that feel like arrhythmia and a melody that turns the dots-and-loops pleasures of so many groups — Stereolab, Pet Shop Boys, Daft Punk — into the dark night of what’s left of a soul.

The rest of Impersonator sustains the darkness; it also cups a protective hand around a candle held up against the black. The maturity Lorde is grasping toward in her adolescent stardom is what Majical Cloudz have already reached in their decreasing obscurity.

One more:

Tuesday, September 23: Bryan Ferry at the Pabst Theater

Bryan Ferry is among the suavest men in rock and pop music; he might also be among the least predictable. For example, in 2012 he formed the Bryan Ferry Orchestra and issued The Jazz Age, which celebrated 40 years in the business with 1920s-style jazz renditions of his songs. He didn’t even sing on the album.

Nevertheless, The Jazz Age was a thrilling “new” way to hear Ferry’s Roxy Music and solo legacy, and perhaps additionally a way of being as puckish as Bob Dylan, to whom he paid very sophisticated and elegant tribute on 2007’s Dylanesque. Ferry’s air of dissipation rarely masks his substantive craft.

This gives a small idea of what the man is going to be up to onstage:

Thursday, September 25: Freeman at Turner Hall Ballroom

Pete Townshend has said the fire of rock ‘n’ roll is fed by dead bodies, so Aaron Freeman’s solo career could be seen as his desire not to become tinder. When he was “Gene Ween” as one-half of Ween, he and Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo were almost as famous for their drug and alcohol intake as for their musical output.

Now sober, Freeman has followed 2012’s Marvelous Clouds, a passel of Rod McKuen covers, with a new collection of originals and a new band, each called Freeman, and he hasn’t lost his ability to incorporate nearly any genre of rock-related music into his own mode of expression.

As proof, a song so honest it’s NSFW:

Thursday, September 25: Biters at Cactus Club

A glance at the faces and figures of the four Atlanta fellows who are Biters (no “the,” officially) could draw skepticism out of the most open-minded person you know and draw the spat-out phrase “Ramones clones” from the most cynical person you know.

It might be best to introduce Biters to either of those people, and everyone in between, with a track or two from the quartet’s back catalog of scuzzy, sneering power-pop nuggets. Had the Biters boys been born earlier, they would’ve made a fine middle act between the Runaways and Cheap Trick.

You’ve heard this sort of thing before, but it won’t literally hurt you to hear it again:

Friday, September 26: Lecherous Gaze at Club Garibaldi

On Zeta Reticuli Blues, the second full-length from Lecherous Gaze, the Oakland band gets literal with the “Blues” part of the title by cranking through a relatively straight take of the Big Joe Williams’ perennial “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” also covered by famous folks ranging from Them (with Van Morrison) to Tom Petty.

However, lead singer Zaryan Zaidi sounds nothing at all like Morrison or Petty — he sounds much more like Lemmy Kilmister’s illegitimate grandson — and the rest of LG’s material revisits the influences of AC/DC (Bon Scott era), Detroit punk (Stooges, MC5) and Black Sabbath.

It’s all quite noisy and gleeful, two traits that rock ‘n’ roll was born with:


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