If you had followed this site throughout the course of 2016, you would have come across a small handful of posts featuring the genre-defying, world music duo Xylouris White, comprised of Melbourne, Australia-born, New York-based drummer Jim White, who’s best known as a member of the internationally acclaimed instrumental rock act Dirty Three and for collaborating with a number of equally renowned artists including PJ Harvey, Nina Nastasia, Cat Power, Bill Callahan a.k.a. Smog and others; and beloved Crete-born vocalist and laouto player Giorgos Xylouris, the son of renowned vocalist and lyra player Psarantonis Xylouris, and who is best known best known for leading the Xylouris Ensemble.
Interestingly, the duo can actually trace their origins to when the renowned Cretan and his ensemble was touring Melbourne in the early 1990s. As the story goes, White was a member of locally-based avant rock band Venom P. Stinger, when he had met and befriended Xylouris, who would later collaborate with The Dirty Three whenever he was touring Australia. And unsurprisingly, the collaboration with Xylouris and The Dirty Three was a rather fruitful collaboration based on a healthy mutual admiration and the influence that both Psaratonis Xylouris and his father Giorgos had on the Melbourne-based trio’s sound and compositional approach.
Straggly enough, although White and Xylouris had been friends and collaborators for more than 20 years, it wasn’t until 2013 that they decided that they should directly collaborate together, a process that was accelerated when the duo played together at a Nick Cave curated All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. And unsurprisingly, the duo’s long-held admiration and friendship have found a way to influence who they write, record and perform together — with their compositions frequently sounding as though they were dancing, as though at any given point, one instrument leading with the other one following and quickly shifting in a wildly fluid fashion. Goats, Xylouris White’s debut was largely inspired by their creative approach, an approach that Xylouris poetically described as being “Like goats walking in the mountain. They may not know the place, but they can walk easily and take risks and feel comfortable. Really, the goats inspired us.”
Black Peak, Xylouris White’s sophomore album furthers the goat analogy, with the album’s title being derived from one of Crete’s most famous; however, the album, which was “recorded everywhere,” as Xylouris jokes in press notes and produced by Fugazi‘s Guy Picciotto, found the duo expanding upon their sound as the material possesses a subtly modern take on traditional sounds and motifs — at points sounding as though it drew from classic rock, as you’d hear on album singles “Black Peak,” and “Forging.”
Mother, the duo’s third, full-length effort together is slated for a January 19, 2017 release through Bella Union Records, and as Psaratonis Xylouris explains in press notes, the album was named to denote “new life.” “Mother is the extension of Goats and Black Peak,” Xylouris adds in press notes. “Three things, all part of a whole. Goats are mothers, Zeus was raised on Amaltheia’s milk, Black Peak is Mother Earth . . . Mother Earth is the mother of everything.” Reportedly, the duo will further cement the duo’s reputation for having a fluid and mischievous chemistry in which they intuitively known exactly when to listen, when to accommodate, when to lead and get out of the way, and to find something completely new together. “A theme of the album is the significance of simplicity and a child-like approach,” Xylouris explains. “So, we connect mother and child and play instruments as toys. Xylouris White is still gestating.”
The album’s first single “Only Love” is a rollicking yet passionate stomp of a song featuring White’s propulsive drumming, which gives a lot of room for Xylouris’ incredibly dexterous, heavy metal-like louto and an infectious hook, accompanied by Xylouris’ sonorous baritone, singing lyrics in Greek — and while possessing a swooning and urgent passion, the song reveals the duo’s mischievous, free-flowing improvisational-like nature.