I have to be honest, but I hadn’t heard of Jozef Van Wissem before. But actually, this guy did win an award in Cannes for the best soundtrack for the movie Only Lovers Left Alive (by James Roberto ‘Jim’ Jarmusch, known from the Coffee And Cigarettes motion pictures especially, I guess). Apparently, Jozef composed some material as well for some of the Sims video games, but with his lute, the guy did reach quite a bigger audience. And now, with a release on Consouling Sounds, new dimensions might get explored. But be prepared! Consouling Sounds have a very open-minded taste, but this release truly is exceptionally eccentric and unusual. But therefor, is it worth being mentioned?
Actually, on When Shall This Bright Day Begin, he uses his self-built lute (more specific, he makes use of both a so-called Renaissance lute and a Baroque lute – the latter being built for him specifically), but he created some synth pieces too in order to add a weird dimension to his melodies.
The album opens with To Lose Yourself Forever Is Eternal Happiness (sounds pretty unhappy, isn’t it), which also comes with a fairylike voice at the background. It’s mainly based on an integer but not that sad lute melody, and that’s the opposite of my first idea, at least when I listened to this album for the very first time. No, there is no joy, no happiness going on, but I did expect more grief and depression. But the sound of a lute itself isn’t that deep-dark, and that defines the relative tranquillity. Another unusual aspect is that Jozef does some voices too on this album. You Can’t Remain Here, for example, comes with invocative singing and shamanistic chants, while the ones in Detachment then again are more of a singer-songwriter alike kind (you know, the little Nick Cave-alike trend), or those in The Ecstasy Of The Golden Cross rather sighing, whispering, distantly narrative. Quite important too is the use of some samples once in a while. It’s a necessary contrast to the purity of the prominent lute passages. Quite remarkable as well is the appearance of American singer Nika ‘Zola Jesus’ Danilova on Ruins, lifting this song up to deep-emotional levels of inner peace and, at the same time, some disturbance as well, I think. It is of no importance, but this song is my personal favourite, both instrumentally, que atmosphere, and because of Zola’s somewhat ethereal voice. And of no importance either, but just for the integrality: they worked together on the aforementioned soundtrack for the Only Lovers Left Alive motion picture before.
As mentioned, I was, and still am, surprised about the emotive atmosphere, but this one does really change in between the individual pieces. The Purified Eye Of The Soul Is Placed In The Circle Of The Eternal Sun, for example, is quite introvert, in total contradiction to its predecessor Detachment, which is almost ready to be played on a regular radio show (mind that I did add the word ‘almost ready’, with a focus on ‘almost’). Some parts have a cinematic character, while others rather focus on introspection and introversion.
What I appreciate is the imperfection of the performance. Once in a while there are minor ‘failures’, little aspects that represent an honest performance rather than a fakely fabricated studio production. Since the lute might not be the most attractive instrument going on, an over-production would totally kill the result. By not eliminating every little inconsequence, the organic nature of this album remains maintained, and that’s a positive effect for sure.