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White Magic
Dark Stars
(Drag City)

White Magic is a band that is, for better or worse, associated with “Freak Folk.” It is one of two bands that formed from the ashes of Quix*o*tic, an Indie-rock trio that featured the notable vocal talents of sisters Christina and Mira Billotte and recorded the now classic album Mortal Mirror. Christina went on to form The Casual Dots while Mira is the primary songwriter in White Magic.

Mira’s voice has the tonal qualities of singing bowls — a warbly vibrato with the resonant ring of glass at its center. It is an idiosyncratic flourish that is as rare as it is genuine. Her songs are equally distinctive — mysterious and ethereal.

Dark Stars is an EP that is intended as “trailer” for the forthcoming White Magic full-length due later this year. The opening track, “Shine on Heaven,” is layered over a halting, cyclic piano figure. The crevices are spackled with fragments of guitar that sound as if they are emanating from the bottom of a well. The second track, “Very Late,” is an eerie waltz, once again constructed from a cyclic piano figure. Mira sings “Take Me Home” like a disenfranchised siren, weary of the imminent dawn. The chorus, a diminuendo piano figure, slides under the incoming verse. A murmuring organ drone heralds the fade out. Track three: "Poor Harold" could easily be mistaken for a classic folk song, with Mira singing “Poor Harold works all night/works in the graveyard/digging graves/digging graves.” Perhaps the biggest surprise is track four, “Wings.” Written by guitarist Douglas Shaw, he also assumes vocal duties. The vocal contrast is a welcome addition, with Mira providing the backup vocals and Dirty Three drummer Jim White laying down an impressionistic, rhythm foundation.

All in all, Dark Stars is an excellent, albeit abbreviated, preview of their next release. Long after the terms “Freak Folk” and “New Weird America” fade in the collective consciousness, Mira Billotte will be making music. I can hardly wait to hear what it will sound like.

-— Jesse Srogoncik, February 2nd, 2008

Quix*o*tic — Night for Day (Ixor Stix, 1999)
Quix*o*tic — Mortal Mirror (Kill Rock Stars, 2002)
The Casual Dots — The Casual Dots (Kill Rock Stars, 2003)
White Magic — Through the Sun Door (Drag City, 2004)
White Magic w/ American Analog Set — Songs of Hurt and Healing (Ouch/Tylenol)
White Magic — Katie Cruel/Hold Your Hand in the Dark (Drag City, 2006)
White Magic — Dat Rosa Mel Apibus (Drag City, 2006)
White Magic — Dark Stars (Drag City, 2007)


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