Am I allowed to play favorites with the Other Music Recording Co. catalog? No? Hmmm, then let me just say that I really, really, really love the duo of Cretan lute player George Xylouris and, one-of-the-best-fucking-drummers-in-existence, Jim White, who perform and record as Xylouris White (naturally). George hails from a very storied musical family: his father is the amazing and highly revered folk singer and lyra player, Psarandonis, while his late uncle, Nikos Xylouris, known as the "Arcangel of Crete," is one of the most famous Greek singers of all-time. (Actually, one of the most listened to albums I've found this year is Nikos' Native Land, which is absolutely thrilling and incredible, you must track it down!) Jim White you surely know from the Dirty Three, Cat Power, Bill Callahan, and Will Oldham albums presently sitting on your turntable or shelf (amongst many other artists he's recorded with).
Although the two met in Melbourne in the early '90s and have played together periodically since, including Xylouris occasionally sitting in with D3, and White with George in Psarandonis' band, it's only been in the last couple of years that the depth of their collaboration has truly blossomed, resulting in this outstanding debut album. Produced by Fugazi's Guy Picciotto, he expertly and sympathetically captures the duo's lean, stripped-down, near telepathic interplay. Contra to usual Cretan folk standards, George plays his lute as a lead instrument (he's long been an accompanist in his father's band), seeming to relish the freedom to unleash a torrent of pent-up melodies and ideas. There's a great dynamic tension to the songs here, laden with folk forms that evolve with a deliberate purposefulness. You can follow the line of Xylouris' thread as it unspools in a myriad of surprising directions, as White plays in, around, and on those hypnotic patterns. It reminds me most of the great guitarist Sandy Bull's collaborations with jazz drummer Billy Higgins in the mid '60s, where you can never be sure what's improvised and what's composed, and where the past and the present are finally reconciled. There's truly an amazing depth of creativity and feeling here, and Goats is without a doubt one of my favorite releases of the year. (October 16, 2014)