by Ruxandra Stoian, Bucharest, 2015
One of the newest musical projects that’s got people’s attention in the United States and recently in Europe is an intriguing combination between rock, punk, jazz, folk and oriental influences, all summed-up in Xylouris White.
From the anarchic sound of drums playing an inspirational transcendental rhythm to the suave notes of lute melting together, the songs from the new album “Goats” are worthy of listening to your delight.
Xylouris White achieves a unique sound by virtue of its founders: George Xylouris – a well known lute player from Crete (Greece), who brings an oriental vibe with greek traditional flavor and Jim White, a most appreciated Australian drummer who formed Dirty Three, known for their impressive instrumental rock sound.
Listening to Xylouris’ lute you can easily picture mythological scenes where legendary characters come to live, walking barefoot on the hot sand. You can see their dresses waving in a dance brought from antique times through the notes he sings right in front of you.
With his Cretan blood, Xylouris makes the lute’s strings burst into volcanic modern odes as an offering to life itself. Descending from a well known lyra player named Psarantonis, George brings in his songs the Bacchic dream where your feet can easily go in a dance of joy with Zorba the Greek (the most beautiful character described by Nikos Kazantzakis).
The rhythm comes from the mystical drumming that White knows so well. Watching him play is like a psychoanalytic incursion into the deepest emotions, where dreams come out in a vivid play.
His experienced and unique technique makes the air tremble in notes brought from unknown rhythms, brutal yet lascivious, perfectly combined with the lute chords in a modern odyssey.
With his punk-rock background from Dirty Three, where he played with Warren Ellis and Mick Turner, Jim R. White makes the whole scene come to life carrying the souls in a boat like Charon, from dark emotions until transcendental release. His admired collaborations with Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Will Oldham brought their tours a real success all over the world.
Combining their sounds together, Goats is an album that makes continents collide in stories waiting to be discovered by everybody’s imagination. Xylouris White is the definition of “out of space”, making all the Indian, Eastern European, African, Middle Eastern, Western and Mediterranean influences come together.
Sophisticart: – Hi Jim! How come you’ve decided to start this new project and how was it formed?
Jim R. White: Hi Sophisticart ! George and i met a long time ago in Melbourne Australia where I am from and he was living for a time. That’s where I first heard Cretan music as played by George and his father Psarandonis, it struck a chord with me and I have been listening ever since – for over 20 years – in this time George and I played together in a few situations, with Dirty Three and with Psarandonis but a year or two ago we decided to play – the two of us. We both play instruments that are mostly thought of as rhythm instruments. Lute and Drums and George is also a great singe . We wanted to play music together, and we wanted it to be a band, our band, so we could travel the world playing music and making a living and finding new ways into what we are doing, new ways which are also old ways.
Sophisticart: – I know you’ve been in Europe recently, when will you return? Is there a tour waiting to start?
Jim R. White:We had a few trips to Europe already, including some shows with Bonnie Prince Billy and a number of shows of our own. We haven’t been to Romania yet but we would love to come. I’ve never been there and have heard it’s very exciting for music and liveliness. We’ll start a new tour in April, doing some shows in western Europe with God Speed! You Black Emperor as well as our own shows. In the summer we will play festivals in Athens, in Porto and in Iceland as well as our own shows.
Sophisticart: – In Dirty Three you were mixing themes of love and hate, and passion was above all. What are the themes you’re willing to approach with Xylouris?
Jim R. White: Joy, Passion, Nature and Movement .
Sophisticart: – How was the album received in the United States and abroad?
Jim R. White: – It’s been very well received, both on record and in playing live. People seem to like it, and feel that it is fresh and pungent. Also it was no. 1 on the Billboard world music charts. I asked the label to put it down as Goatish genre, we were hoping for a number 1 on that chart but they couldn’t find it. So they put us down as world music. I wasn’t so sure about that identification until we were no. 1 then it felt fine. The response from both Greeks and non Greeks has been fantastic, and some of my favorite times with Goats has been when there is a mix of people from Greece who have a different relationship with the music we are doing and Americans (for example ) who are getting involved in the music and also experiencing the Greeks relationship with George and i and the Cretan music.
Sophisticart: – What inspires you in the songs you’re composing?
Jim R. White: – Nature and the idea of music. George, the lute, Crete, Australia , the drum set and everything that has happened and been thought of, and my limbs .
Sophisticart: – Did you listen to any traditional stories in Greece? How do you feel the cultural differences between peoples is reflected in art?
Jim R. White: – Yes , I have listened to stories old and older in Greece and hearing them as we go about doing what we are doing is one of my favorite things that has been going on. For the second part of the question, when I first heard Cretan music I knew nothing about it, but I loved it, the immediacy, the beauty, I’m sure I miss most of whats going on but I love it , I’m a baby in it but I’ve been listening for 20 years , I’m not here to be Cretan but I am respectful and keen to be so, and part of that is to feel free within the boundaries I choose. George tells me I come from a tradition , Melbourne music tradition, and he is right, since I found live music as a teenager in Melbourne I have been placed squarely in that tradition to the point where I haven’t lived in Melbourne for many years and yet I still feel it in me, just as I feel Australian, in Crete tradition is overtly celebrated, it’s alive , it’s old and it’s new, it has strong thread, that’s my impression, what would I know? I’m trying to get back to answer the question, don’t know anything about art though.
Sophisticart: – Any other new collaborations planned for this year, or older ones that you are trying to develop?
Jim R. White: – A friend and i invented a new rhythm, previously unknown to human kind, the double. Today’s beat tomorrow. I also am working on a dance piece. Drum kit, a dancer, and a staging. But mostly I am doing Xylouris White, we are working on a second album and playing a lot.
Sophisticart:- When will the Romanian public hear Xylouris White live?
Jim R. White: As soon as someone invites us there for a concert .
Sophisticart: Thank you so much for letting us know and we hope to hear from you soon so we can enjoy some good music live.
Jim R. White – Thank you very much for your interest and kind words .
The new album “Goats” by Xylouris White definitely brings a white light over the boundaries between American and European continents in notes as savage as a wild goat on the dry hills of Greece, in its untouchable beauty and grace that inspires.
You can also see them in their tour in Europe April 6 – Nantes (FR) @ Gravity Hill at Stereolux: Jem Cohen (film), Guy Picciotto (guitar), George Xylouris (lute) & Jim White (drums) – Tickets Here
April 7 – Reims (FR) @ La Cartonnerie w/ Gareth Dickson– Free Entry
April 19 – Glasgow (UK) @ ABC w/ Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Tickets Here
April 20 – London (UK) @ Shepherds Bush Empire w/ Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Sold Out
April 21 – London (UK) @ the Miranda at Ace Hotel – Tickets Here
April 22 – Paris (FR) @ Bataclan w/ Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Tickets Here
April 24 – Dijon (FR) @ La Vapeur w/ Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Tickets Here
April 25 – Winterthur (CH) @ Salazhaus w/ Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Tickets Here
April 26 – Krems (AT) @ Donau Festival – Tickets Here
April 28 – Strasbourg (FR) @ La Laiterie w/ Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Tickets Here
April 29 – Brussels (BE) @ Cirque Royal w/ Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Tickets Here
April 30 – Amsterdam (NL) @ Paradiso w/ Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Tickets Here
June 5 – Athens (GR) @ Plisskën Festival – Tickets Here
June 6 – Porto (PRT) @ NOS Primavera Sound – Tickets Here
July 2-4 – Asbru, Keflavik (IS) @ ATP Iceland – Tickets Here
July 9-12 – Winnipeg, CA @ Winnipeg Folk Festival – Tickets Here