Xylouris White review – fearless and joyous Greek folk music

A former garage on an industrial estate in Salford may seem an unusual place to find traditional Greek folk music on a Sunday evening. Nevertheless, the duo Xylouris White play to a captivated room, accompanied by the occasional hiss of an incongruous smoke machine. Dirty Three drummer Jim White, who has also played with PJ Harvey, Smog and Cat Power, pummels his drums with remarkable deftness as he seamlessly glides between delicate touches and lightning-crack eruptions. His adaptable and loose style marries perfectly with that of Giorgos Xylouris, the Cretan laouto player and singer, as they weave in and out of one another in semi-improvised steps, touching upon jazz and post-rock.

In the first part of the set, the pair play their latest album, The Sisypheans, in full. The format adds an element of expectation to proceedings – but while the crowd may know what comes next, the manner in which the duo approach the material remains unpredictable and ever-shifting. Xylouris’s chant-like singing, backed only by whispers of string work and hushed tip-tap drums, induces silence across the room. At other times, such as during the ever-building groove of Inland, the pair lock deep into a flurry, turning the reverent atmosphere celebratory.

The second half plunges deeper into the band’s back catalogue, including a simmering performance of The Feast that sees a crescendo of fizzing cymbals crash against Xylouris’s rapid-fire fretwork. Despite the retrospective turn, they still seem fixed on the horizon. There’s a fearlessness to their playing: their knowing glances and nods reveal their shared intuition, and the occasional clunky moment comes as both a natural side effect and a welcome wrong-footing during an evening that is endlessly and joyously fluctuating.

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