Xylouris White - Mother


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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 see 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.

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