by Brian J. Audette
On their long-awaited full length debut In The Dark, Magia Negra deliver a collection of mellow, psych-tinged dream pop, with an air of playful menace and serious bedroom eyes. Coming nearly three years after their self-titled EP and six months after the debut of the alluring video for the (still to-be-released) single “Enslaved,” this album had more than a little to prove on arrival. Lovingly crafted and expertly executed, In The Dark manages to live up to those expectations and forges a solid path for the band going forward.
In The Dark is rife with themes of seduction, obsession and lust, relying heavily on the allure of front woman Lolita Carroll’s breathy vocals to drive its narratives. Subtle and sensual, her delivery evokes a sense of hearing something secret, something personal, of private “dear diary” thoughts. “I’ll be gone for just a day or two/Till I’m crawling my way back to you/Beautiful boy/I’ll be your toy” she croons smokily in album opener “Don’t Lie.” In “Sun and Moon” she’s more upfront with the line “Put your hands on me/I’ve been watching your eyes.” There’s a personal, almost voyeuristic aspect to the whole proceeding, but much like the video for “Enslaved” it manages to feel sensual without ever feeling “dirty” or invasive.
Instrumentally, the album is almost as smoky as the vocals. Damp with atmospheric reverb and without a single extraneous or missing note, the compositions are sparse, but complex; a series of tightly choreographed maneuvers that perfectly compliment the vocal delivery and lyrical depth. The crisp, jangly open chords of a single guitar are present throughout the entire recording, sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied by melodic bass or subtle percussion. From these beginnings most of the tracks eventually build up to full blown band affairs and cathartic moments of release as in the outros of the titular “In the Dark” or album closer “Something You Want.” In contrast to their quiet introductions, these songs come crashing to completion in their final moments, an emotional counterbalance to the subtle build and sensual suggestion they proceed.
In the end In The Dark is a rainy afternoon album wearing a mischievous smirk, a singer-songwriter confessional that’s also an ensemble jam. There’s a simple beauty and quiet sophistication to these tracks, that underscores both the crashes and the subtlety. It’s classic dream pop, though it eschews bubblegum antics and billboard bravado for a mature lilt, not always subtle innuendo, and the knowing smile of whispered desires.
Magia Negra play tomorrow, January 28th, at Radio Coffee and Beer with Batty Jr
Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bjaudette.