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White Magic

Drag City

White Magic songwriter Mira Billotte has always been more invested in the ethereal than the earthly. As a member of the witch-core group Quix*o*tic, Billotte developed a slanted melodic sensibility that evoked Tarot-shuffling mysticism and B-movie doom, aided by a voice that hovered over the band’s stark instrumentation like a sorceress on a broomstick. So it’s appropriate that the Billotte-led White Magic should seek to conjure realms beyond our own physical plane. Sadly, the concoctions on Dat Rosa Mel Apibus are mostly sleeping charms. The album doesn’t start that way: With its wordless melodies and rolling rhythms (courtesy of Gang Gang Dance drummer Tim Dewitt), album opener “The Light” is plenty intoxicating. But songs such as “All the World Wept” cake on the exotica, with clay pots, gongs, and an ill-advised sitar that bury the vocals in an opium haze. Billotte also makes an aggravating habit of recycling her melodies. Her mumbles about “waking in dreams” on the title track can barely be distinguished from similar slurs concerning “the blue beyond” on “Childhood Song” tales of life adrift in brine on “Sea Chantys.” The second half of Dat Rosa finally restores a little of the light that was displayed on 2004’s Through the Sun Door. “Sun Song” breaks up the fog by applying a few badly needed melodic hooks. Drummer Tim Barnes applies a bit of focus to “Hold Your Hand in the Dark,” allowing the song to slowly blossom over the course of six minutes, making it Dat Rosa’s most coherent statement. “Palm and Wine” even restores a bit of White Magic’s previous bluesy swagger by ditching the vocal drones and atmospherics for a jangling piano. Still, most of Dat Rosa Mel Apibus finds White Magic stoned in the aisles of the sort of metaphysical bookstores suburban moms visit. Billotte drones and groans about the sun and the stars, but as she reaches for the stratosphere, it becomes clear that the heavens she’s describing are mostly just empty space.—Aaron Leitko