Album ReviewsReviews

Review: Jozef van Wissem – A Priori (2008)

artist: Jozef Van Wissem
release: A Priori
format: CD
year of release: 2008
label: Incunabulum
duration: 37:33

detailed info:

A Priori is Dutch lutist Jozef Van Wissem‘s seventh solo album, self-released in the Incunabulum imprint. The liner notes in this stylish digipak are by none other than Current 93‘s David Tibet, and he warmly recommendes this album, comparing it to various cyclic and eternal entities in nature. I can see where our dear David is coming from, and I can imagine that he likes it quite a bit: the repetitive and hypnotic qualities present in his own music find a different sort of expression on the album currently under discussion.

As many of Van Wissem’s works, this album is made up of solo lute compositions, making use of a technique he dubs “palindrome compositions”. It is quite clear why this is so, for each track is built up of separate pieces of melody that roll back on eachother in groups of three to five. Each group then contains one or a couple of notes and/or chords. This system is intriguing, referencing at the same time modern cut-up techniques and the more timeless concepts of eternal return and infinity mentioned above, and also reflected in the spiritual titles of his work.

Musically however, I think Van Wissem could have done so much more with this idea. The tempo on the whole album is quite low, and especially the rhythmic side contains very little variation. This could’ve have been compensated by changes in tempo and intensity, but sadly, this is not the case. As it stands, the album is quite hypnotic and relaxing, but tends to fade into the background a bit too much for my taste. I found this especially disappointing because I’m quite enthusiastic about the work Van Wissem did with James Blackshaw, Brethren of the Free Spirit, where his excellent lute play is supplemented by the richer sound of Blackshaw’s 12-string, and more importantly, by compositions that seem more imaginative and experimental.

All the same, A Priori is an album that is good at what it does. If you enjoy Van Wissem’s other solo works, you won’t be disappointed by this one, and you might also like it if you are into projects like Pantaleimon.

Reviewed by O.S.


1. How the Soul Has Arrived at Understanding of Her Nothingness (9:42)
2. Aerumna (3:25)
3. Into the Abyss of Perdition (3:54)
4. Thelema (4:12)
5. The Heavens Are Parting and the Spirit Descends like a Dove (3:54)
6. De Anima (5:24)
7. The Soul Leaves the Body in Eternal Glory (7:02)