Minimalist composer and lutenist Jozef Van Wissem follows up last year’s When Shall This Bright Day Begin with a new LP, the spare and oft-haunting Nobody Living Can Ever Make Me Turn Back, out Friday on Consouling Sounds.
Van Wissem’s got Minimalism’s horizon-expansion down. In “Golden Bells Ring…,” a 4/4 refrain on lute loops infinitely, with occasional interjection only from a warbled, reverb-ish lead or a minor change in progression, both minor revelations as you get trapped in the rhythms and repeating clusters. He pulls similar feats on the dreamy “Let Us Come Before His Presence In His Hands…,” where the throbbing but barely-in-the-mix pulse of a tom is sometimes interrupted by hammered notes that reminds listeners they’re experiencing drones on strings, not merely recorded or prepared work. On “Enable With Perpetual Light The Dullness Of …” the interjections come courtesy of what sounds like the wispy whisper of pedal steel – of the lute variety, of course. It’s all so strangely enticing.
Van Wissem occasionally strays from the methods that work into overly self-serious territory – in addition to the humdrum moaning on the opening track, there’s actually a song here called “The Empty Cup of Suffering.” But he also redeems himself with somber interludes like the melancholy closer, “Our Bones Lie Scattered Before The Pit,” and the introduction to “The Conversation,” which is elegiac and epic stuff. (Verdict’s out on the vocals, though.) All in all, it won’t popularize the lute the way The Third Man popularized the zither back in the day but, for the right set of ears, it’s enveloping, emotive work from an obvious talent.