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A review of...
Black Peak by Xylouris White
Second collaboration from this unlikely duo
Although this is only Xylouris White's second album (a sequel to 2014's Goats), the friendship of George Xylouris and Jim White actually spans more than 25 years. Xylouris is a legendary Lute player from Crete and White is the celebrated drummer with Australia's favourite avant-rockers The Dirty Three. However, this is a relationship that pre-dates The Dirty Three, the two having met in Melbourne in the early 1990s. It may have taken a while for them to hook up properly but the stars and now well and truly aligned and Black Peak sounds like an album by a duo that are cosmically tuned into one-another.
Although Xylouris' classical skills and deep wavering vocals are firmly at the forefront of this record, White's typically erratic, violent/calm drum style should not be under-estimated. Take the amusingly titled "Hey, Musicians", where the percussion is given total free reign to form a darkly disturbing eight minute free-form beast which threatens to build into a more traditional formula but in the end leaves you dangling anxiously. Occasionally that voice of Xylouris' gets slightly too much license to roam, such as on "Erotokritos" where he seems to be pushing things a low as they can possibly go, it's quite incredible, but not necessarily pleasurable. For the main though, it's an unusual and crucial element to this partnership. Elsewhere, the two musicians combine on seven tracks which seem like semi-improvisations (see the previously mentioned "Hey, Musicians" or the more playful "Short Rhapsody"), but were most probably meticulously planned out. The latter is almost certainly the case for the nicely synchronised meandering riffs on "Forging".
With Black Peak, Xylouris White have unleashed a follow up album that is as unique as it is challenging, and it seems that this duo have enough steam (and room for improvement) to make up for lost time, and churn out some seriously crazy records over the coming years.
"Pretty Kondilies" - probably the easiest entry point into the oft-crazy world of Xylouris White. Here they can be found quietly noodling way on a song that sounds almost like a folk-jig.
"Black Peak" - the song that really sees both musicians firing on all cylinders. White's frantic repetitive beat (which seems to provide its own bassline) underpins a raw and emotional vocal performance from Xylouris. It all ends in a crashing ramshackle finale.