On a superficial level, this collaboration between George Xylouris, a lauded lute player from Greece, and superb Australian post-punk drummer Jim White of the Dirty Three could be described as a cultural collision. But they work outside of their respective comfort zones, transcending geographical boundaries to the point where it’s tricky to know where they’re coming from.
Xylouris is the descendant of Greek music royalty. His uncle is Nikos Xylouris, a national icon whose nickname is “archangel of Crete” because his songs are hugely influential and beloved, and his dad is Antonis Xylouris, a.k.a. Psarandonis, a singer and lyra player who is well-regarded for pushing traditional folk music in new directions. George spent much of his childhood playing the lute and joining his father on his recordings and in concert; by using the lute as a lead instrument, George, too, challenges musical expectations.
White’s background, on the other hand, is decidedly post-punk; he co-founded the Dirty Three with Warren Ellis and Mick Turner in the early-’90s and went on to collaborate with Will Oldham, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, and many more. He’s a magnificent, multi-faceted, and sensitive drummer with the perfect mix of ferocity and finesse.
In Xylouris White, the lute/drums configuration makes maps irrelevant, at various points recalling Indian, Eastern European, African, Middle Eastern, Western, and Mediterranean modes. There is jazz and punk here along with dashes of bluegrass, klezmer, and folk and yet it’s all conveyed seamlessly. At some points, Xylouris’ approach to the lute recalls prepared guitar or fingerstyle practitioners like Glenn Jones, himself a friend, follower, and collaborator of John Fahey. The searching and surprise of such exploration shines through in “Suburb”, a virtuoso performance, the lute bouncing back and forth between harmonic patterns and sturdy strumming, simultaneously meshing with found and traditional percussion accents.
Within the sequence of the record, “Psarandonis Syrto” is sure-footed after Goats presents Xylouris White spending a couple of songs getting a feel for one another. Syrtos are traditional Greek dances that people bust out at parties and weddings but “Psarandonis Syrto” has a somber, contemplative tone. On “Pulling the Bricks”, each musical flourish is a gambit and a dare, Xylouris leaning into his lute for a stretch of fast tremolo picking, while White, supportive yet minimal, provides an up tempo pattern on a ride cymbal.
It’s one of many instances on this record where pieces sound festive but brooding. “Old School Sousta” seems to be a sly piss-take at the Crete folk traditionalism that Xylouris employs in his busy, insistent lute lick and that White bolsters, mostly rolling tom drum thuds before the song climaxes with an off-kilter martial snare, signifying a parade happily running its course.
Xylouris and White are both capable of starting storms. When, in their respective work, they strike upon a moment where they wish to explode, the jolt can be a remarkable feat of musical strength. Knowing this lends an eerie suspense to things like “Wind”, which features some dense and dynamic interaction between the players but the builds are subtle. As the piece rumbles forth, there are many instances where it feels like something huge is about to happen but the song teases and dissipates.
The pensive joy within Goats stems from two musicians of seemingly disparate backgrounds, communicating together with the tools they know best and as well as anyone else who has ever used them. Here though, with new partners and parameters, they’ve struck upon something challenging, wholly inventive, and rewarding.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1s8zjaa