White Magic's moniker — and the sometimes arcane sensibilities of its frontwoman, Mira Billotte — spurred tastemakers to use the words "spiritual" and "ethereal" when describing the act's brand of freak-folk. The trouble was, her caterwauling alto and thick piano melodies often made the group's output more earth-clump tangible than otherworldly wispy.
The four-song EP Dark Stars finds the Brooklyn act working to further dispel lazy pigeonholing. Piano parts break off and pile up in clunky heaps. The drumming is mixed low beneath flakes of guitar, and Billotte alternates between dark-haired Disney villainess and pull-my-cord Debbie Harry doll. Over the circular piano playing and folksy guitars of "Very Late," she repeats, "You better take me home" — though there's more snarl than seduction in her words. "Poor Harold" is a mix of carousel percussion, Stygian narrative, and mirthful lupine howling, which somehow works together.
White Magic's songs don't always coalesce, particularly when the music turns maddeningly prolix in style and arrangement. "Shine on Heaven" is an infinity of moody piano and recurring lyrics, the occasional hook revealing itself for an instant before quickly receding. The band occupies a crawlspace in the rickety folk hall of artists like Joanna Newsom and Fairport Convention, but such erratic layouts prevent White Magic from hitting its creative ceiling.