Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the last few months of last year, you’ve come across a couple of posts on genre-defying, world music duo Xylouris White. The duo, comprised of 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. At the time, White was a member of Melbourne, Australia-based avant rock band Venom P. Stinger when he had met and befriended Xylouris, who would later collaborate with the members of Dirty Three whenever he was in Australia. This turned out to be a rather fruitful collaboration, primarily based on the long-held admiration and influence both the legendary Cretan and Giorgos Xylouris had on the Australian trio’s sound and compositional approach.
Strangely, although White and Xylouris had been friends for more than 20 years, it wasn’t until 2013 that they decided to collaborate together, a process which was accelerated when White played with Xylouris and Psaradonis at a Nick Cave curated All Tomorrow’s Parties festival. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the duo’s long-held admiration has managed to influence how the duo write, record and perform together, and in some way, the duo’s compositions manage to sound as though they were dancing within their compositions, as though at any given point, one instrument could be accompanying the other, or leading the other — frequently in a fluid, almost anything goes fashion. In fact, Xylouris and White’s debut effort together Goats was largely influenced by Xylouris’ poetic analogy for their creative approach — “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.”
The duo’s sophomore album Black Peak furthers their goat analogy, as the album’s title is derived from one of Crete’s most famous mountains; however, the album, which was “recorded everywhere,” as Xylouris jokes in press notes and produced by Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto, has the duo expanding upon their sound while simultaneously giving a subtly modern take on traditional sounds and motifs. You may recall that at the end of last yer, I wrote about album title track “Black Peak,” a rollocking and stomping number in which the members of the duo push, pull, lead and follow in an intricate composition. The album’s latest single “Foraging” continues on a similar vein as the proceeding single, as it displays Xylouris’ dexterous, almost rock ‘n’ roll-like louto playing, reminiscent of the violin section in The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly,” White’s explosive, polyrhythmic drumming paired with Xylouris’ sonorous and soulful vocals singing in Greek.
The recently released some live footage that will give you a sense of the duo’s live set and their undeniably, forceful simpatico in which both members intuitively know when to lead and when to follow; it’s simply amazing to watch.