FRACTURED AIR

The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Xylouris White

leave a comment »

Interview with George Xylouris & Jim White.

All these things forge our sound and make us more who we are and where we are from. Pictures and sounds, deserts and forests and towns and sky and people, and I woke up in the bus in Arizona at 6 in the morning at sunrise and everything was pink, I’d never seen anything like this.”

—George Xylouris

Words: Mark Carry

george and jim

Xylouris White is the inspired collaboration between Greek lute player George Xylouris and the Australian, Brooklyn-based drummer Jim White. Both composers are legends in their own right, the former through his Cretan lute-led sounds of the Xylouris Ensemble, the latter through his membership of mythical Australian trio Dirty Three and myriad collaborations over the years (Nina Nastasia, Cat Power, Bill Callahan, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, to name a few). Both have harnessed truly unique and unparalleled playing styles and levels of musicianship in their respective instruments where inspiration seems in endless supply at all times.

A catharsis of energy is unleashed throughout ‘Black Peak’ with an incredible force and unwavering beauty that has become one of the treasured hallmarks of the duo’s incendiary sound (ever since the duo’s 2014 debut full-length ‘Goats’). A wider sonic palette is masterfully explored here with the addition of George Xylouris’s immense baritone vocals (on several tracks) and a myriad of special guests from the extended Xylouris family (George’s father Psarandonis and Will Oldham carve beautiful new textures and colour to the duo’s visionary sound), further heightening the revelatory experience that awakens with each pulsating beat and enriching narrative.

If ever a song embodied the spirit of a record it comes with the closing epic ballad ‘The Feast’. A rich tapestry of otherworldly sounds gloriously ascends amidst a whirlwind of life’s fleeting moments. George’s father Psaradonis takes the lead role: his soaring lyra and voice weaves majestically around his son’s hypnotic lute playing and White’s joyous and sprawling drums. The Last Waltz. The gorgeous, sombre feel could be any one of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s deeply moving records and shares the infinite possibilities and sacred space of Dirty Three’s Ellis, White and Turner.

The sheer expanses covered on ‘Black Peak’ is staggering. The opening rock opus ‘Black Peak’ and ‘Forging’s momentous rock’n’roll rhythms are followed by the poignant parable of ‘Hey, Musicians!’ and divine epic love song, ‘Erotokritos’. Worlds drift in. Ancient traditions are interwoven with contemporary, avant-garde musical structures, forever embedded deep inside a mysterious, enchanting and cosmic space.

Bret Easton Ellis began his introduction to John Williams’s vintage novel ‘Butcher’s Crossing’ by saying: “A novel is about the opening of consciousness, in both the characters who inhabit the fictional narrative as well as that of the reader envisioning the novel in their head as they explore the terrain the author has laid out.” Just like the sweeping, intimate portrait of (central character) Will Andrews’s search for a new way of living, ‘Black Peak’ invites the listener to inhabit the far-reaching plains of life’s mysterious and kaleidoscopic landscape. As depicted on the striking narrative of ‘Hey, Musicians!’, music indeed never ends.

 

‘Black Peak’ is available now on Bella Union.

https://www.facebook.com/XylourisWhiteBand/
http://bellaunion.com/

Fractured Air & Plugd Records present XYLOURIS WHITE w/ KATIE KIM

TDC, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork Friday 28 October 2016 Tickets: €15 (ORDER ONLINE HERE)

xw-pic-web

Interview with George Xylouris & Jim White.

Congratulations on the stunning sophomore full length ‘Black Peak’. Firstly, there is new sonic terrain covered on ‘Black Peak’ with the addition of your immense baritone vocals, and a wider sonic palette is masterfully drawn from, with special guests from the extended Xylouris family also deployed. Please take me back to the making and recording of ‘Black Peak’ and please recount for me the recording sessions? What was the studio set-up and how long did the recording take?

George Xylouris: BLACK PEAK is recorded in different studios around the world, New York, Providence, Crete, Iceland, we were on tour at the time we were recording. That’s one of the reasons we call the album Black Peak, not only because of the song about the mountain above where I’m from but also the symbol of linear B (Minoan script) for this mountain and its sister peak which maybe means the horizon (anthropological theory).

The first song recorded for the album was Forging, recorded at Guy’s studio and it also helped us with direction for the record. We recorded Black Peak (the song) in Queens, The Feast was from Guy’s in New York and finished in Crete with my father singing and playing, and Erotokritos was finished in Louisville the day we played a show there, the studio set up is different depending where we were.

In Rethymnon you can hear the birds from the open windows singing with Psarandonis. Hey Musicians! was the first time we played this song, we recorded it in Iceland in a studio that used to be a swimming pool and we played in the bottom of the pool. We recorded many songs like that, but this was the first song we recorded that day. It tells about somebody asking the musicians to tune up their instruments because he wants to sing about his old loves and he wants the air to take the words away where his loves hang out, those ones who loved him and those that lied to him and he’s got a lot to take out of his heart in a love way and then when his fantasy party finishes he says to the musicians to hang up their instruments and put them in their cases because music never ends.

A catharsis of energy is unleashed throughout ‘Black Peak’ with an incredible force and unwavering beauty that becomes one of the trademarks of the Xylouris White sound. For example, the aesthetics of the record is another important aspect, where gripping intensity of the more rock fuelled anthems (‘Forging’ and ‘Black Peak’ at the beginning) is joined with epic ballads such as album closer ‘The Feast’. In what way do you feel your live tour of your debut album help shape the songs off ‘Black Peak’. It is this energy between the pair of you – this resolutely unique duo – that evokes such a shape-shifting, enriching and incomprehensible sound. Please talk me through the creative process and indeed the space you each create that forms the bustling heart of Xylouris White? 

GX: Thanks for your comments.

We’ve played a lot of concerts in a lot of places since the release of Goats and we like to do that, a lot of time together a lot of sound checks, traveling, concerts, talking, listening, and traveling to the horizon all the time, ahead. All these things forge our sound and make us more who we are and where we are from. Pictures and sounds, deserts and forests and towns and sky and people, and I woke up in the bus in Arizona at 6 in the morning at sunrise and everything was pink, I’d never seen anything like this.

Are any of the new tracks actual traditional songs?

GX: The lyrics of Erotokritos is from the 14th century. There are different melodies – different ways to sing the words depending on the area in Crete; it’s a love epic song 10,000 couplets, we cover around 15.

Pretty Kondilies is a traditional dance and that type of melodies are traditional, there are many choices and you choose and put them in a row and often people and musicians improvise the words on the spot. it depends the situation and their feelings, the arrangement is ours.

Please discuss the rich musical lineage of the Xylouris family and indeed the players – past and present – that comprise the Xylouris Ensemble. Also, there is a beautifully vivid sense of place in your music, something that resonates powerfully with The Dirty Three and how a sense of journey always finds a way into the music, and Xylouris White is certainly no exception. Can you explain the importance of travel and the act of travelling must have on the music you create? I always feel it could be music to an epic road-trip through many journeys past.

GX: I grew up in a musical family, my uncles, father, brother and sisters, my villagers who were also feel like my family and many of my friends, we grew up together playing music and soccer in the village, and hung around in the sides of the village and cut wood and would pretend it’s a lute, and play, singing the sounds and that’s one of our fun and enjoyable games, and we also mimic dancers and musicians from our village. So I grew up playing mandolin and serenading around the village many, many times, and hung out with older people, who wanted me to play for them, to sing and have all the sounds of the wedding and parties in the square and later on when I was thirteen I left school and I went with my father to play all around the island as a full-time musician and soon I understood what I wanted do with my life.

Later on I had the opportunity to travel with my father and met many other musicians and singers and dancers and kept in touch with them through the years, exchange ideas and hear other music, keep in touch and play music all these years, unstoppable, and when I was 27 we went to Australia to play with my father and I stayed there for 8 years. A few friends and family there happened to be musicians from different traditions and background and that’s how we started Xylouris Ensemble, and that’s also when Jim and I met in the late 80s and later on Dirty Three started and they invited me to play as a guest etc.

What are your earliest musical memories?

GX: Listening to my Dad rehearsing at my grandfather’s house, a couple of my Dad’s friends were there and one is a really beautiful and unique dancer and I remember that and I never forget that I heard the melodies I already knew and I saw my Dad try to play those melodies in a different way, put more or less in, different bows and try in that way to cover the dance, talking with the dancer and tried to drive them connected to the dance and that was a huge experience and I discovered that you could play the same thing in different ways and I noticed it was for them the most important thing that was happening in the whole world , like a meeting of the big countries having a summit to save the world.

Jim White: My parents playing Bob Dylan records at parties at my house.

As masters of your chosen instruments, I would love for you to discuss your first encounter with the drums and lute?

GX: In the square at a wedding listening to my uncle Yiannis play the lute. 

JW: Listening to records and loving it but having no understanding of it at all, and then making a band with my friends which never even got together once but I decided to choose drums.

What musical philosophy you feel has remained true to you throughout these years? 

GX: To quote my Dad, – he doesn’t play with meters he plays with kilometres.

JW: Trying to understand the drums from the basics.

Can you recount for me your memories of first meeting one another? It’s amazing to think this occurred even before the beginnings of Dirty Three, another factor to what makes this duo so special and unique. 

GX: I met Jim through friends at a party, and then again when I saw Venom P. Stinger play.

JW: At a party through friends when George couldn’t speak any English, and then playing by himself at a bar in the city and then later Xylouris Ensemble by the river. 

What is your compositional approach? I wonder has the process changed or developed in any way from the debut ‘Goats’? 

GX: Everything changes. Nothing stays stable. Next year will be different again! We don’t know what we are exactly looking for but we face our direction.

The closing ballad ‘The Feast’ represents the finest moment of ‘Black Peak’s rich tapestry of otherworldly sound. The music of Xylouris White feels at once steeped in an age-old tradition of folk music and the wide expanses of experimental nuances. Can you talk me through the construction of this song and the addition of lyra & voice? It must be exciting to be playing some of these songs more stripped down as a duo (minus the added instrumentation of the guests), I wonder do the songs mutate or evolve in any way over the course of a long tour?

JW: This song is an improvisation on a melody we recorded at Guy’s house in New York, we had that and liked it very much and later on in Rethymnon at Aristotelis’ studio with the windows open on a hot day the birds came and started singing with Psarandonis (George’s dad) and George.

The words are about someone, he’s going to marry the moon and because he loves that moment he writes the lyrics and the moon is in and out of the clouds and he calls to the mountains because he is so happy “hello friends, how heavy you are, as much as I love you” and he calls earth his mum and the sky his dad and he asks them to come to his wedding with the moon because that’s what he feels is so beautiful that he loses his mind and wants marry the moon.

 

‘Black Peak’ is available now on Bella Union.

https://www.facebook.com/XylourisWhiteBand/
http://bellaunion.com/

Fractured Air & Plugd Records present XYLOURIS WHITE w/ KATIE KIM

TDC, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork Friday 28 October 2016 Tickets: €15 (ORDER ONLINE HERE)

Written by admin

October 18, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: