Release Date 08/24/2018
(You Are Accepted) NACC
Devon Welsh is a Montreal-based singer, songwriter, and artist. He released two critically acclaimed albums as the frontman of Majical Cloudz, an electronic duo whose intense and innovative music combined aspects of poetry, hardcore, minimalism, and folk.
That project came to an end in 2016, largely because it had fulfilled its intentions. “The band has come to a very natural conclusion, as it has communicated everything it was meant to and reached more people than we would have ever imagined,” said Devon at the time.
Following the breakup, Devon stepped away from music for a year. “I wrote songs but didn’t think about their purpose or about anything at all to do with the music industry or if I would be releasing music in the future,” he said about this time, “I just tried to grow as a person and do some learning.” The songs he wrote during this period would eventually become the basis for his debut solo album, Dream Songs.
Dream Songs steps out of the strict aesthetic Welsh worked in with Majical Cloudz while continuing and expanding on some of the core ideas which that project explored. The album is a series of reflections on themes: time, separation, the complexities of love, will, eternal life, the seasons. The songs are evidence of Devon’s growth as a songwriter; this is his most mature work to date.
Devon’s favorite song from the album is “I’ll Be Your Ladder”. It was written in November 2015 and is the song that inspired the direction the album would take. Devon says, “This song was the beginning of a set of ideas that were new to me at the time, it was a special moment personally. In some way it seems like a lot of time has passed since I wrote it. On the other hand, I appreciate the idea of making something and then putting it away for awhile, to see if it still touches you. I read one of my favourite poets John Ashbery saying that when he writes something he then puts it in a drawer for a year. I end up doing that with songs, and I suppose this one is an example of that.”
The song has the fewest words and the most repetition of any on the album: “Time cools me with laughter / as I see the ways I am changing / and I know I want to be your ladder / with love’s elation in your eyes / I’ll be your ladder while you’re changing.” Of the song, Devon says, “To me it is about feeling impermanence, loving each other and watching each other evolve as we go.”
The first single, “By The Daylight” looks at the world fatalistically. The song opens, “If you see an insect / don’t try to squash it / things more powerful than you control the actions in your life.” Of this song Devon says, “Life often seems like a catastrophe of one kind or another, events seem out of our control. Sometimes it feels like we’re just swept along in a tide we don’t really understand, and this song is about experiencing that feeling.” Chronologically another of the older songs on the album, “By The Daylight” began with a very different arrangement. “It was originally made mostly with synthesizers and had saxophone on it, and then when Austin and I started re-recording the demos it got transformed into something built almost entirely around strings,” says Devon, “the new arrangement opened a lot of mental possibilities for what the record as a whole could be.”
The debut solo record presents Devon’s songs in a somewhat more sonically organic context. The album was recorded and produced by Austin Tufts, with the intention of making an album that maintained the simplicity of Devon’s previous work while exploring the possibilities of more “traditional” elements: guitar, piano and a string quartet.
Together Devon and Austin rebuilt the recordings from the ground up at Austin’s studio in Montreal. They worked out the kinks in the demos, imagined different arrangements, and re-recorded almost everything. Austin transformed Devon’s simple string arrangements in the demos into a powerful element of the finished recordings. “I love songs with strings,” said Devon, “so making recordings with beautiful string arrangements is a dream come true.”