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Alternative & Indie - Released January 19, 2018 | Bella Union

Distinctions Songlines Five-star review
On Mother, their third long-player, the duo of Cretan lutist George Xylouris and drummer Jim White find the space between the arid exploration of 2014's Goats and the intense, swirling ascendancy of 2016's Black Peak. By turns, Mother is a more spacious album than either of its predecessors. Produced by Guy Picciotto (Fugazi), these nine tracks more carefully examine song forms, utilize the grainy physicality of Xylouris' voice, explore the seam where drones and conventional Cretan and Greek melodies are born, and interact with one another in conversational tones of varying passionate emotion. Xylouris sees this set as the conclusion of a trilogy; he explained that "Mother is the extension of Goats and Black Peak. Three things, all part of a whole. Goats are mothers, Zeus was raised on Amaltheia's milk, Black Peak is Mother Earth…Mother Earth is the mother of everything." Opener "In Media Res" is built on a drone where drums meet bowed, plucked, and strummed laouto. There is no beat, but there is a kind of breathing pulse that emerges slowly from the ether to find its own level along with a chaotic yet hauntingly beautiful engagement toward a much more strident conclusion. It gives way to the wide-open gallop of "Open Love," with its slamming rock drums and punchy chord voicings under the amorously devastated, grainy moan of Xylouris' singing voice. On "Motorcycle Kondilies," there's a circular chord-and-percussion patter, and "Spud's Garden" is a folk dirge with loopy Celtic drumming carving out space for the deep register in Xylouris' voice, while his lute asserts the knotty melody from the background. Ultimately, the song feels like an intro for the album's first single "Daphne," a spooky, mournful ballad where White's tom-toms become the ground, with their deep, mysterious intonation sounding like detuned dumbeks as Xylouris' melody conjures several divergent Mediterranean and North African folk traditions. White's brushes create a sense of the otherworldly in "Woman from Anogeia," a droning love ballad that borders on whole-tone blues. With its urgent picking and forceful bass drum, "Call and Response" has an intro worthy of the more intense material on Black Peak, but the pair deconstruct and rebuild it into a spacious yet taut labyrinthine jam before closing with the tender, nebulous ballad "Lullaby," which weighs musical imagination and dynamic restraint. The spaces between instruments is vast, but Xylouris' vocals bridge them with intimacy and mystery. Mother reflects its title. Each tune births further exploration as each statement is a (sometimes slightly) varied response but more often a question. While the album is integral to its predecessors as part of a loosely conceived and articulated musical trilogy, it stands on its own as an exercise in close listening, careful communication, and quiet revelation. ~ Thom Jurek

World - Released October 14, 2014 | Other Music

Goats pairs Dirty Three drummer Jim White with Cretan lute wizard Giorgis Xylouris in a musical conversation that careens across genres and, to a lesser degree, historical time. The pair met in Melbourne some years ago and informally played together, but the idea for recording didn't come up until they backed Xylouris' father, the great lyra player and singer Psarandonis, at the Nick Cave-curated All Tomorrow's Parties festival in 2007. Produced and engineered by Fugazi's Guy Picciotto, Goats' nine tunes -- six originals, two folk songs, and Xylouris' father's "Psarandonis Syrto" -- feel simultaneously composed and improvised. While the Cretan laouto (long-necked lute) is often used as a rhythmic instrument, Xylouris is a virtuoso soloist. He creates vamps that unfold into labyrinthine lines that evolve into their own polyrhythmic patterns. White has an instantly recognizable style because of his fluidity and improvisational instinct. He possesses a willingness to allow the physical wood and metal tones in his kit equal places of prominence in his attack. No matter the tempo, this music is exciting, passionate. This music, though very much made in the moment, reaches through antiquity to push at any boundary the future might seek to impose. "Pulling the Bricks" commences with rockist crescendos before Xylouris spins off into a flurry of drones and arpeggios that cross dissonance with harmonic agreement. "Old School Sousta," a traditional song, has rumbling tom-toms as the lutist offers various illustrative thematic statements on its lyric line. The tension ratchets with every passing chorus as White begins to extrapolate with counterpoint on his snare and kick drum. On his father's song, Xylouris' rhythmic riffs and back-alley liberties with melody are underscored by White's crisp snare, loose rolling toms, and woody rim shots, as the lutist adds droning whole-tone string pulses to accent the drama. The pair begin together on "Chicken Song" before winding around and through one another and eventually colliding. The musical destination feels nearly impossible to arrive at, and whether they get there or not only they know -- they just stop playing. It's a thrill ride all the same. "Fandomas," another traditional song, is the lone vocal number. Xylouris' words ride astride furiously played notes, creating frenzied momentum that White is only too happy to accommodate. It is only the ravaged longing in his voice that binds their whirling instrumental dance to earth. At only 36 minutes, Goats is dizzying, a sometimes chaotic smear of styles, tempos, tones, and harmonics woven through musical history. It sounds and feels live, like the duo is just getting started when it ends. Yet it is long enough to reveal something not only new, but previously unfathomable with each listen. White suggested the album's title while driving through the Cretan countryside after a day's recording. He felt the music resembled what he saw outside: the often precarious movement of the goats on the mountain ledges. He was right. ~ Thom Jurek

Alternative & Indie - Released October 19, 2017 | Bella Union


Alternative & Indie - Released December 12, 2017 | Bella Union


Folk/Americana - Released August 27, 2019 | Drag City


Folk/Americana - Released September 24, 2019 | Drag City


Folk/Americana - Released November 8, 2019 | Drag City

Listen back to Xylouris White's 2014 debut, the mostly instrumental Goats, and you'll hear two guys reveling in the chance to shed their usual roles. Giorgos Xylouris stepped back from the frontman role that he's had for decades in his family's folk band in order to define the music's structure on his lute, and Jim White, a veteran of countless sessions as well as a member of the Dirty Three, showed just how charismatic a drummer can be when he's not dimming his light in order to keep from outshining the boss. Three albums down the road, Xylouris is once more singing the folk songs of his native land. The mythological king Sisyphus was doomed to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a hill over and over again, but the duo has come up with some strategies to keep from being crushed by repetition, and The Sisypheansis as notable for the ways that it differs from its predecessors as it is for the ways in which they stay the course. Still present are White's restless, ever-intriguing accompaniment, and the intriguing sonorities and Aegean melodic contours of Xylouris' lute playing. But Xylouris is a deeply expressive vocalist, articulating blues and beatitudes that transcend any language barrier. And by adding rustic fiddles and harmony vocals to their usual instrumentation, the duo has come up with its most varied and dynamic recording yet. © Bill Meyer / Qobuz

Rock - Released October 7, 2016 | Bella Union