Release Date: Oct 7, 2016
Record label: Bella Union
Genre(s): Experimental, Pop/Rock, International, International Fusion, Cretan, International Folk, Mediterranean Traditions
Xylouris White are an unlikely duo. George Xylouris is a distinguished exponent of the Cretan lute, while Jim White is an Australian drummer, best known for his work with the instrumental rock band Dirty Three. Two years on from their debut album, Goats, comes this follow-up, in which they further develop their inventive and often thrilling fusion style by concentrating on songs rather than instrumentals.
Xylouris' father, Psarandonis, a celebrated lyra player and singer in his own right, adds his instrument and voice to "The Feast." His violin-like instrument's higher pitch is contrasted with the droning laouto and White's ever so speculative rhythm-making to create an incantatory effect; it's in this space that the older man delivers the lyric in a raw, moving basso profundo. A lyra solo hovers above as George finds a more earthy harmonic and White illuminates it in spectral backdrops as an atmospheric bridge. They eventually come together before a brief ratcheting down before it just ceases, closing Black Peak out.
Consisting of Cretan lute player George Xylouris and Dirty Three drummer Jim White, Xylouris White make a racket that verges between aping traditional Cretan folk to almost rockabilly blow outs. Added to this, they’re on record as saying their debut, Goats, was inspired by goats ambling on a mountainside. So, there’s plenty to like here. Their willful experimentation persists on album number two.
Black Peak is the second outing from an unlikely pair: Giorgios Xylouris a master of the traditional Greek lute and Jim White the great indie rock drummer of Dirty Three. Their conjunction makes more sense when you recognize that in Crete, where Xylouris comes from, the lute serves as a rhythmic instrument, putting a bracing, staccato jump start under age-old melodies. White, meanwhile, has never been a meter-bound drummer.
Quite in opposition to the goings on in voting booths and government chambers across the globe, new releases in recent years have been littered with monuments to multiculturalism, pluralism, and collaboration. To name but a few there’s been Scottish-Indian folk trio Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali’s band featuring a Senegalese bassist and a white American drummer, Israeli singer Shye Ben Tzur’s album of Sufi devotional Qawwali music with Jonny Greenwood, plus French producers like Acid Arab or Débruit producing electronics with artists from the Middle East. Whatever deplorable term is deployed to describe it - ‘world fusion’, ‘East-meets-West’, even (sorry) ‘culture jamming’ - it’s clear we’ve all come a very long way since Graceland.