Xylouris White, the ruggedly visionary duo formed of Cretan lute player George Xylouris and legendary Australian drummer Jim White, have today released their new album Mother on ABC Music, with limited vinyl release through Kasumuen Records; stream/purchase here.
Critical praise has been lavish for Mother, which is this week’s Album of the Week on Triple R in Melbourne and enjoying nationwide radio airplay.
* “With their third album in four years, esteemed Cretan lutist George Xylouris and Dirty Three drummer Jim White continue to evolve their arresting marriage between gnarly tradition and free–flowing adventure.” UNCUT – 8/10
* “Throughout, Xylouris’s cascading runs and impressionistic shimmer are underpinned by plucked or strummed rhythms… White pushes the momentum by seamlessly blending martial rhythms and angular off–beat pattering… An intoxicating fusion.” MOJO – 4 Stars ★★★★
* “Exhilarating… Their two earlier albums were remarkable for their blend of improvisation and energy, and the new set proves they are capable of treating elegant, thoughtful songs with an equal spirit of adventure.” The Guardian – 4 Stars ★★★★
* “The duo can be more quietly meditative – the charred incantation of Lullaby, for example – but this is a record of stormy intensity, hauling its emotions up to the mountainside to expose them to the elements.” Q
* “From the gorgeous Only Love to sumptuous close Lullaby via the mighty drones of Achilles Heel, Mother is resplendent, displaying a truly nurturing nature.” The Mirror – 4 Stars ★★★★
* “Xylouris and White seem to have decided to take advantage of all available resources, adding stylistic, instrumental and emotional variety without sacrificing the looseness of their early work.” The WIRE
* “Xylouris White are a virtuosic duo… White’s perpetual free–jazz motion drives along Xylouris’ dexterous fretboard brilliance and yearning baritone on an album of craggy folk wonder.” Long Live Vinyl –7 /10
* “The degree to which Xylouris and White are attuned to each other’s playing is illustrated by ‘Daphne’, during which they egg each on to new pitches of intensity.” Financial Times
A passion for exploration comes naturally to Xylouris White, the ruggedly visionary duo formed of Cretan lute player George Xylouris and Australian drummer Jim White. For their debut album, 2014’s Goats, Xylouris White compared themselves to the titular animals, wandering fearlessly through rough-hewn terrain. Two years later, they showed how far their horizons could reach on 2016’s majestically expansive Black Peak, named after a mountain top in Crete. Just 15 well-toured months later, the duo’s exploratory instincts drive them further onwards still on their third album, Mother, named to denote new life.
As Xylouris puts it, “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.”
Across Mother’s nine tracks, Xylouris White nurture fecund growths from the spaces between their instruments. Sometimes the songs drive with an invigorating urgency; sometimes they brood, plead, yearn and lull. The duo seem to discover each other anew at every turn, teasing the songs out from their fluid chemistry with the kind of virtuosity that knows when to listen, accommodate and learn afresh.
A theme of the album is the significance of simplicity and a child-like approach, Xylouris explains. “So, we connect mother and child and play instruments as toys. Xylouris White is still gestating.” That ongoing gestation is a remarkable extension of already remarkable back-stories. Xylouris is a scion of one of Greece’s most revered musical families. His father is legendary singer and lyra player Psarantonis. Jim White, meanwhile, has commanded international attention for more than two decades as part of Australia’s Dirty Three. Now New York-based, White has often been called on to collaborate with numerous alt-A-listers (including: Bonnie “Prince” Billy, PJ Harvey, Cat Power and Smog), where he redeploys the rolling momentum of free-jazz to variously supple, sensitive and seismic ends. Most recently he performed with Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett on their acclaimed Lotta Sea Lice.
Album opener “In Medias Res” finds the duo already in motion, feeling their way around one another, seeking out ways to bring a song to full bloom. Proving they can also be thrillingly direct when the mood takes them, “Only Love” follows with a brilliantly barrelling sense of momentum, White’s powerhouse percussion urging Xylouris’s liquid-fingered lute-playing and impassioned baritone on to increasing heights of urgency.
From here, Xylouris White proceed as if by intuition, feeling their way around new terrain. “Motorcycle Kondilies” is muscular and epic, White’s rimshots providing on-alert accompaniment as Xylouris’s reaching vocal and dancing lute lines build in intensity. If the marching rhythm and pretty lute melody of “Spud’s Garden” highlights the duo’s occasional elegant side, “Daphne” and “Achilles Heel” showcase Xylouris White’s at their most hypnotic and brooding. “Woman from Anogeia” hosts a particularly emotive vocal from Xylouris; “Call and Response” is the duo at their freeform finest, circling each other querulously, again teasing at possibility. Finally, resolution is embraced openly on the tactile and reverberant “Lullaby”, as lovely a track as any Xylouris White have birthed.
As on Black Peak, Mother’s labours benefited from the midwifery of choice collaborators. Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto produced once again. Also on hand this time was Anna Roberts-Gevalt of old-time folk duo Anna & Elizabeth, whose earthy violin/viola lines and exquisitely sighing vocals can be heard on the track “Lullaby”.
The result is an album of extraordinary accomplishment from two supremely seasoned players who’ve kept a close kinship with the richly, rewardingly inquisitive instincts of their youth. In Xylouris’s words, “It’s the natural maturity of fruits as they ripen. As fruit matures by the rhythm of nature, so the music grows at its own pace. So, here are two maturing fruits giving the taste of their present maturity – and they’re still children.”
Media queries: Sophie Miles @ Mistletone Publicity firstname.lastname@example.org (mailto:email@example.com)
More info: www.xylouriswhite.com (http://www.xylouriswhite.com/)