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 2014 debut, 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".
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."
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 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.