Xylouris White - Goats
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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.