Xylouris White Reimagine the Ancient Rhythms of Crete

The post-punk duo eschews tradition as much as they hold fast to it.

In a recent interview, Xylouris White divulged their musical quest is in search of “this one rhythm,” an ancient dance native to the Greek island of Crete, where lute player George Xylouris claims his heritage. Along with drummer Jim White (of The Dirty Three), the duo bring a decidedly post-punk edge to traditional melodies, with lyrics borrowed and inspired by Cretan poetry dating back to the 14th century. On their sophomore album, Black Peak, Xylouris White eschew tradition as much as they hold fast to it. On title track “Black Peak”, the lute dances energetically above White’s spare rhythms, and Xylouris’ elegiac singing recalls middle-eastern melodies among washes of reverb and tamed feedback. Had John Fahey traded his steel-string for a lute and had Swans’ Michael Gira as his producer, Xylouris White would have a close musical peer. But no such project exists, and the duo stand in a class of their own.

Catch Xylouris White perform at National Sawdust in Brooklyn on Novemeber 18. Black Peak is out now on Bella Union.