Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy – White Magic

Steve Kilbey & Martin Kennedy - White Magic

Steve Kilbey and Martin Kennedy, of The Church and All Indio Radio respectively, pull another rabbit out of their collective hat on sophomore collaborative album White Magic.  The 11 atmospheric songs follow and lead off the path of predecessor Unseen Music, Unheard Words, treading (or is that floating?) understatedly through acoustic guitar strum, Western guitar reverb, permeating synths and strings, and Steve’s hushed, but languorous vocals and insightful lyrics.  The overall mood is contemplative and hypnotic, reflected in the interplay and transitions of shadow and light of the sonics, vocal intonation, and lyrics.

Both Steve and Martin are in top form, carving out gently alluring melodic forms and instrumental textures.  The deliberately-paced, sinister “Close” slides along with acoustic guitar, ominous Western guitar refrain, brushed drums, organ notes, and elongated synth lines.  Steve’s vocals are dry and cutting on the verses, as he sidles up to the object of his desire, intoning “Close… / getting closer.”  By the chorus Steve reveals his true motive, drawing out his vocals in a silky, insinuating purr as he acknowledges “Revenge… / I’m gonna get revenge.”

Briskly strummed acoustic guitar and bittersweet strings revolve around Steve’s vaguely menacing vocals on “Intense”, as Steve himself breathily smolders through rich bons mots like “Not even the truth / could get me to lie.” and “Not even the window or the stars / could get in my way.”

“Unfocused” features deep Western guitar reverb, a simmering cymbal tap beat, and sustained, low-key synths.  Steve’s usually unflappable and austere demeanor cracks a bit on the emotional chorus where he vents his frustration, achingly exclaiming “Before you go / I’d like to know / if…all of this will never come to anything.” amid circling guitar chime and a low-end bass line.

The relaxed and peaceful reverie of “Mountain” is a pleasant respite after the angst of the previous song.  Steve’s calm, lulling vocals are matched by Martin’s serene instrumentation as a delicate acoustic guitar pattern intertwines with sustained strains of poignant violin strings, a measured, low-key beat, and light piano notes.  The chorus builds to a slowly swaying hymn-like vibe with Steve and other background singers sighing “Oh, won’t you go / to the mountain, to the sky?”

A deep Western guitar line reverberates through the steady-paced opening of “Sumer” as Steve sing-talks emphatically on the verses, leading to a dreamier chorus of cymbal shimmer, picked acoustic and chiming guitars, and floating, wordless male backing vocals.  The main guitar line of “Hope” forms the melodic hook against a briskly-paced beat and running bass line as a clear-eyed Steve declares “I can’t wait another lifetime for my destiny.”