Fresh Stream

White Magic — I’m Hiding My Nightingale


No one likes to be deceived in real life, but with music it’s different. I love it when the first song on an album is gentle and quiet, and I settle in to be lulled. Then the weird kicks in and from then on I’m whipsawed between sweet and scary. I’m Hiding My Nightingale, the new album from White Magic, is brilliantly schizophrenic.

White Magic is the name used by New York based psych-folk musician Mira Billotte, who now records on Leaving Records. Billotte’s 2006 LP, Dat Rosa Mel Apibus, gained her a following amongst fans of folk’s freakier side and landed her spots opening for Sonic Youth, Animal Collective, and Ariel Pink. One EP and a few scattered songs later, White Magic reappears out of the mist with four excellent new tracks.

I’m Hiding My Nightingale begins with a pure, stark chord progression strummed by guest guitarist Ariel Pink. Billotte’s vocals are the perfect balance of boom and beauty. In terms of both lyrics and delivery, this is folk in the best close-your-eyes-and-sway tradition. “Your voice in my mind plays gentle as night rain,” sings Billotte. Isn’t that lovely?

With “Runaway” we’re out of the sunshine and into the shadows. The guitar gives way to piano: forceful, almost stately chords. A voice swoops in: echoing, ghost-like. Billotte accents bursts of sorrowful sound with gorgeous airy releases of breath and warbly build ups. It is a siren’s song — viciously beautiful.

“Mora” is the altogether trippy highlight of Nightingale. Billotte’s voice fragments into a babble of chanting. It’s a bit like the singer from “Runaway” doing a jam session with her coven. Light, jazzy cymbal tapping mixes with tribal bongo beats to psychedelic effect. The subject is appropriately horror-tinged: “In nightmares/as I lay down/down to sleep/pray for nightmares/no more.”

Nightingale ends with “Out Beyond the Moon,” a sweet little piano tune. Its delicate plinking makes me think of Schroeder playing in a Peanuts cartoon.

I’m Hiding My Nightingale has all the soul and acoustics of awesome folk music, but this isn’t coffeehouse fare. Billotte unnerves you with her psychedelic creepiness. You don’t know what’s next: a smile or a shiver.

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