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White Magic - Through the Sun Door

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Artist: White Magic

Album: Through the Sun Door

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jun. 3, 2004

If there’s any real magic on White Magic’s debut Through the Sun Door, it’s probably in the amazing voice of Mira Billotte. Also a member of Quix*o*tic (along with sister Christina), Billotte lends the ramshackle goth-folk of White Magic just the supernatural quality it needs, even if the material isn’t always first rate. On Through the Sun Door, the band seems to be aiming for the same oddball folk niche filled by Drag City labelmates Faun Fables (who sounds an awful lot like Billotte) and Joanna Newsom. It may be too soon to make any definite calls on their degree of success; the EP clocks in at a scant 22 minutes, and suffers from stylistic indecisiveness and inconsistency. Nonetheless, there are some arresting elements at work here, which may prove more fruitful on subsequent efforts.

The EP’s best tracks, “One-Note” and “The Gypsies Came Marching After” convey the kind of rustic spookiness that seems to be White Magic’s calling card; on both songs, an out-of-tune piano pounds out off-kilter rhythms while Billotte wails like a possessed voodoo priestess. “Gypsies,” perhaps in part due to its title, seems to call for wild and frenzied dancing around a fire; the band should consider adding a Spinal Tap-like Stonehenge set to their stage show, if the haven’t done so already. The remaining tracks are more minimal in arrangement, and fail to conjure up a similar energy. “Plain Gold Ring,” sounds like an attempt at more gypsy-inspired weirdness, this time in the form of a mournful ballad; it seems like it should work in theory, but the performance is too restrained and lengthy to achieve the desired effect. Similarly, “Apocalypse” falls short of the rustic-Black Sabbath quality it seems to aim for, due to a thin and underdeveloped arrangement. Some of the problems with Through the Sun Door are probably the result of White Magic’s limited personnel; with only three members (trading off on bass, guitar, drums and piano), the band suffer from their minimalism rather than using it to their advantage.

More often than not Through the Sun Door seems to point toward its musical aspirations rather than actually achieve them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it suggests that White Magic do have some compelling ideas in mind. Even if they don’t always bring them to fruition here, there’s a certain something about Billotte’s eerie incantations that makes the album undeniably intriguing.

By Michael Cramer

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