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: dis​cogs​.com

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.

Track­list:

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)