March 30, 2017 | doors at 8:30pm
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Tight Bros. Network presents:
- DAY OF SHOW
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’ 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.
“As we work together we can see the horizon is always open,” says
Xylouris, “because that’s how we work. We give each other space, and
that comes from the space we always try to give the bands and the
people who we work with in the past.”
Partly, Black Peak pays testimony to both men’s remarkable histories.
One of Crete’s best-loved artists, Xylouris is a scion of Greek
musical royalty, a family from a mountain village near the Cave of
Zeus. His father is revered singer / lyra player Psarandonis. A child
when he began playing the lute, Xylouris would accompany his father in
a backing role. Yet just as Psarandonis stretched the lyra’s range
(“If music is measured in meter,” Psarandonis said, “I play in
kilometre!”), so Xylouris elevated his eight-string laouto to the lead
role in his Xylouris Ensemble.
Jim White has commanded international attention for more than two
decades as part of Australia’s Dirty Three, storm’s-eye instrumental
diviners whose emotionally choppy soundscapes brim with elemental
force. Now New York-based, White is often found collaborating with
alt-A-listers (including: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, PJ Harvey, Nina
Nastasia, Cat Power and Smog,) where his playing redeploys the rolling
momentum of free-jazz to supple ends, from sensitive to seismic.
PJ Harvey has likened White’s playing to dancing. Yet if dancers need
partners, Black Peak also pays testimony to a friendship forged over
25-plus years. Xylouris was touring with his Ensemble when he met
White in Melbourne in the early 1990s, when the drummer was in his
pre-Dirty Three avant-rock outfit Venom P Stinger. In retrospect, a
cycle of influence emerges: Xylouris’s 1990s live contributions to the
Dirty Three seem to set a blueprint for Xylouris White, yet the Dirty
Three were themselves inspired by Xylouris and Psarandonis.
That mutual admiration shapes the way the duo operate on Black Peak,
always listening, encouraging, accommodating. “Each one has different
roles at the same time, accompaniment and lead role,” explains
Xylouris. “It’s very fluid.”
This fluidity is clear from the rolling explosion of the title-track,
where White’s thunderous rhythm seems to urge, and be urged along in
turn, by Xylouris’s chugging lute-rock riff, pirouetting melody and
soaring vocal. “Forging” maintains the momentum, Xylouris’s thrashing,
thrilling lute melody circling the rock of White’s pulsing drum.
Elsewhere, Xylouris White re-write their route map. “Hey, Musicians”
is rich and sonorous. The skin-tingling crawl of “Erotokritos
(Opening)” draws on romantic renaissance verse; “Short Rhapsody” is a
joyous jam of slashing laouto and coiled percussion; “Pretty
Kondilies” is dancing and declamatory. Finally, “The Feast” sprawls
gorgeously between tradition and invention, its sombre, sighing spaces
shared with guest star Psarandonis’ stunning lyra and voice.
It took until 2013 for Xylouris and White to form as a duo, a process
accelerated when White played with Xylouris and Psarandonis 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
the sound ranges from loud psychedelia to meditative trance, the voice evokes Nico and Catherine Ribeiro with traces of Grace Slick, drifting from traditional to experimental folk, a soulful, mystic music is at the root.
White Magic released the recordings "Through the Sun Door" ep, "Dat Rosa Mel Apibus" Lp and "Dark Stars" ep with the label Drag City, and has recorded with musicians, Ariel Pink, Jim White (Dirty Three, Cat Power), Tim Koh (Ariel Pink), and Douglas Shaw (HighLife, Gang Gang Dance).
White Magic has headlined tours in the US, UK and Europe extensively, and has toured with Animal Collective, Sonic Youth, Joanna Newsom, and Bonnie Prince Billy, also performing at festivals, such as ATP UK, invited by curator artists God Speed You Black Emperor, Sonic Youth, Stephen Malkmus, Slint and Dirty Three, and Distortion festival in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Other recordings include, Bob Dylan’s "As I Went Out One Morning" produced by Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth) for the soundtrack album (Columbia) for the film "I’m Not There" directed by Todd Haynes, the ballad "Long Time Ago" with producer Hal Willner for the compilation album "Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys" (Anti-), and the limited original recordings "New Egypt" for Southern Records Latitudes series and the most recent release "Out Beyond the Moon" for the split 7" with Cass McCombs out on Famous Class.
Mira Billotte has also created limited releases for her label called The Mysteries, pressing the White Magic 7" vinyl "White Widow" single, which includes a B side cover of Jefferson Airplane’s "White Rabbit".
White Magic's newest release "I'm Hiding My Nightingale" ep, is out now on Leaving Records, Ariel Pink features on guitar for the title track.
"White Magic is a lot of things -- dark, hopeful, mystical, yearning -- but it's never not lovely..."-- Billboard
"Soulfully assured, Mira Billotte beguiles like Grace Slick reclining against a surrealistic, Fleetwood Mac-embroidered pillow, casting spells over gamelan dub, chamber folk, sitar shanties, and raga vespers."--SPIN