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Jozef van Wissem – It Is Time For You To Return

Crammed Discs

Jozef Van Wissem - It Is Time For You To ReturnA new year, another chance to get preponderous about whatever it is that makes us like a thing. Jozef van Wissem‘s Stations of the Cross is about seven years old now, a record I got and thoroughly enjoyed and always intended to follow up but entirely failed to. That was quite a shock at the time — just about minimal enough to sit somewhere near to Morton Feldman but just that bit more static and cold that made it quite a bizarre thing. That he was playing a lute but seemed to lack much of the stylings of baroque or early music (at least, that which I’ve heard from those eras) made for a strange and cold environment. Being named after the stations made for a compelling narrative of good Christian sentiment — pain and death and suffering. And this record? It’s been swimming about for a few months and I’m still not entirely sure what I make of it.

See, the biggest issue I’m having is that it’s hitting the same spots as the record I liked. F’rinstance, opener “If There’s Nothing Left Where Will You Go?” does moving not very far in an engaging way — a descending melody and healthy gaps, but not enough silence to veer into smart-arsery. It doesn’t go on too long but is just long enough to be more than an intro. Last track “Invocation of the Spirit Spell”, featuring Yasmine Hamdan on vocals and Jim Jarmusch on guitar, has that sort of breathless floating quality that’s something like sitting on a beach just at the point where it’s really too cold to carry on.

And perhaps that’s the problem — there’s these moments of aching stasis which make for isolated pockets of “ahh”, but in between there’s stuff that’s not really hitting home. The addition of Domingo Garcia-Huidobro‘s glitch-crackle on a couple of tracks doesn’t quite ignite or ember away, and it sits neither incongruously nor additively. I wouldn’t say it’s ill-considered, it just isn’t quite hitting me. And, while it always feels unfair of me to criticise someone’s voice, Wissem’s singing on a handful of tracks isn’t quite sonorous enough to carry the melodies — so “Love Destroys All Evil” is a lovely melody that doesn’t quite get executed in a way that sticks; the lute’s got such lush, wide harmonics and overtones but the vocals leave it in that category of great song, unfortunate delivery.

Fundamentally, it’s a bloody great shame that I don’t like this record because I’m into the ideas, the production’s gorgeous and subtly varied, with a nice throttling on the reverb (could be different rooms, of course)… but something about it isn’t really holding together for me. I’m sorry to start the year off on a slightly dour note BUT you should probably note that he’s playing on Thursday 15 January at Café Oto in London, and you should definitely go to that and then send me angry emails telling me what an ungracious prick I am.

-Kev Nickells-

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