When Xylouris White recorded their second album, this most intuitive and inquisitive of duos did what comes naturally to them: expanded their horizons. For George Xylouris, the Cretan lute player who partners here with the Dirty Three’s preternaturally fluent Australian drummer Jim White, one aim was to extend a core metaphor of their ruggedly visionary debut album, 2014’s Goats.
“Like goats walking in the mountain” is Xylouris’s poetic analogy for their approach: “They may not know the place, but they can walk easily and take risks and feel comfortable. Really, the goats inspired us.”
That exploratory pitch is matched by the majestic Black Peak, named after a mountain top in Crete and, says Xylouris, “recorded everywhere”. A peak in both artists’ careers, the album testifies to their determination to stretch the scope of their instruments and forge something vigorously questing from more traditional roots. Where Goats was mostly instrumental, Black Peak gives Xylouris’s full-force baritone a lead role. And where Goats was often frisky, its tumultuous, tender and terrifically expressive follow-up drives harder and dives deeper.
PJ Harvey has likened White’s playing to dancing.... It took until 2013 for Xylouris and White to form as a duo, a process accelerated when White played with Xylouris and Psarantonis at a Nick Cave-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Australia. Just as other parties helped unite them, so the path to Black Peak was trod with support. The producer is Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto, as on Goats (Xylouris: “His enthusiasm and aesthetic bring richness to the proceedings.”); the ghostly harmonies on “Erotokritos” come from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.
“All these things together, Jim from Australia, me from Crete, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy from Kentucky, Psarantonis from Crete, Guy Picciotto from Washington give us the inspiration of the horizon,” says Xylouris. “Jim and I travel a great deal and we like to do so. We have been doing that together the past three years, which is what inspired us to think of the horizon. “We’re still goats,” he adds, “now on the horizon.” On the spectacular Black Peak, Xylouris White show just how far their horizons can stretch.