It was back in 2000, that avant-garde composer and baroque lutenist Jozef Van Wissem released his debut album, Retrograde Renaissance Lute. Since then, Josef has released a series of groundbreaking solo albums and collaborations. Jozef’s latest album, It Is Time For You To Return, will be released by Crammed Discs on 10th November 2014. It Is Time For You To Return is the latest instalment in Crammed Discs’ Made To Measure series. It’s also the perfect introduction to the music of a true musical innovator, Jozef Van Wissem, whose recording career began as a new millennia dawned.

Jozef Van Wissem was born in 1962, in Maastricht, a town in Southeast of the Netherlands. A classically trained musician, Jozef has spent a lifetime honing his sound. He’s now based in New York, and has established a reputation as one of the top avant-garde musicians of his generation. His recording began back in 2000.

That was when Jozef Van Wissem released debut solo album Retrograde Renaissance Lute. It was released on the Persephone label in 2000. Two years later, Jozef returned with Narcissus Drowning. Just like his debut album, Narcissus Drowning was a fusion of classical, contemporary and electronic music. A groundbreaking, genre-melting album, Narcissus Drowning was a foretaste of what Jozef Van Wissem was capable of.

By 2003, Jozef released his third album Simulacrum (Mirror Images For Solo Lute And Electronics). Just like his two previous albums, Jozef innovated. He made a series  field recordings, and “manipulated” them in the studio. The result was a captivating and compelling album. Meanwhile, Jozef was establishing a reputation as a musical pioneer.

So much so, that word was spreading about Jozef Van Wissem. Other artists began collaborating with Jozef. The first was guitarist Gary Lucas. He asked Josef to play on his 2003 album Diplopia. Just like Narcissus Drowning, genres melted into one on Diplopia. The pair reconvened on Gary’s next album The Universe Of Absence, which was released on 2004. This was just the start of a string of collaborations Jozef Van Wissem was involved with.

The next collaboration Jozef was involved with, was Tetuzi Akiyama’s 2004 album Proletarian Drift. This was a live album recorded in 2003, at the Gendai Heights Gallery, Setagaya, Tokyo. Proletarian Drift featured two lengthy improvised tracks. Tetuzi and Jozef would collaborate again on the 2007 album, Hymn For A Fallen Angel. By then, Jozef would’ve released two further albums.

Between 2005 and 2009, Jozef Van Wissem released an album each year. This began with 2005s Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear. A Rose By Any Other Name (Anonymous Lute Solos Of The Golden Age followed in 2006, and Stations Of The Cross in 2007. With each album, Jozef pushed musical boundaries even further. He released A Priori in 2008 and in 2009, released two albums, It Is All That Is Made and Ex Patris. This is quite incredible, because during this period, Jozef embarked upon a relentless touring schedule.

Throughout his career, Jozef has constantly toured the world. He’s played over 800 solo lute shows at concert venues around the world. This includes  rock festivals like ATP and Primavera Sound. At these festivals, Jozef dawns the the stage playing his custom made, black lute. During his set, the audience are captivated as he delivers music that’s mesmeric and hypnotic. That’s also the case with his solo albums.

After a gap of two years, Jozef returned in 2011 with a new album, The Joy That Never Ends. That year, he also collaborated with United Bible Studies on their Downland album. Busy as 2011 had been, 2012 would be the busiest year of Jozef’s career.

During 2012, Jozef collaborated with film director Jim Jarmusch. Jim is also a guitarist, and was looking for someone to collaborate with. Jozef fitted the bill. So much so, that they recorded three albums together, Apokatastasis, Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity and The Mystery Of Heaven. On Concerning The Entrance Into Eternity, Tilda Swinton was the guest vocalists. She also performed with Jozef and Jim at an ATP festival in 2012. This collaboration with Jim lead to more work for Jozef. Before that, Jozef found time for another collaboration.

This time, Jozef collaborated with Gregg Kowalsky. They worked on Gregg’s Movements In Marble And Stone album. It was released later in 2012. Along with playing live, 2012 had been one of the busiest years of Jozef Van Wissem’s career.

2013 saw Jozef Van Wissem release a new solo album, Nihil Obstat. His reputation had grown. Now he was well known beyond avant-garde circles. That’s why so many artists were so keen to work with Jozef. This includes Jim Jarmusch.

After collaborating with Jim Jarmusch on the three albums, he commissioned Jozef Van Wissem to write most of the soundtrack for the 2014 film Only Lovers Left Alive. It featured Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. When Only Lovers Left Alive premiered at Cannes, it was awarded the Cannes Soundtrack Award. For Jozef this was recognition that his work was finding a wider audience.  The other advantage was, that the promotional tour for Only Lovers Left Alive allowed Jozef the opportunity to play a tour of twelve cities.

During the promotional tour for Only Lovers Left Alive, Jozef played in twelve cities around the world. Jozef performed solo lute music, and also appeared as part of Jim Jarmusch’s band SQÜRL. Since then, Jozef has been working on his new solo album It Is Time For You To Return,

It Is Time For You To Return features nine tracks written by Jozef Van Wissem. He plays lute and adds a series of mesmeric, haunting vocals. Joining Jozef is Chilean filmmaker, Domingo Garcia-Huidobro, who contributed electronic programming on a couple of tracks. Jim Jarmusch  plays guitar and Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan adds a vocal on Invocation Of The Spirit Spell. It’s one of the nine tracks on It Is Time For You To Return, which I’ll tell you about.

It Is Time For You To Return opens If There’s Nothing Left Where Will You Go? Just a lone lute plays hesitantly. Space is left within the arrangement. This adds a sense of melancholy. It’s as if Jozef is contemplating each note before playing it. Notes linger, hanging in the air, as if posing a question, to which Jozef knows there’s no answer.

Love Destroys All Evil has a brighter, more upbeat sound. Jozef’s lute sparkles and chimes. It sounds like what a minstrel would play at a medieval feast. Then, later, it’s all change. Jozef’s hopeful vocal enters. He sings “Love Destroys All Evil and frees us.” His vocal is hope felt and heartfelt. It’s as if Jozef desperately wants to believe what he’s singing.

Just Jozef’s lute plays as Once More With Feeling unfolds. Soon, Jozef’s lute is joined by Jim’s guitar. It adds a Byrdsian sound to the mix. When the guitar drops out, Jozef takes centre-stage. That’s the case throughout the track. However, when when it returns, Jim’s guitar is yin to Jozef’s yang on this beautiful, meandering track. 

As Confinement unfolds, it’s apparent that this is very different to anything that’s gone before. What sounds like a  radio crackling, or a biplane flying above is accompanied by a dark, broody, booming drum. Then Jozef’s lute enters. He delivers a tender, dramatic and wistful vocal. It’s as if he’s sympathises with those in Confinement. He can imagine the days becoming months and years. The hopelessness of the situation shines through as he delivers the lyrics. All the time, the drum pounds and the arrangement crackles, replicating the horror of Confinement.

Wherever You Will Live I Will Live has a thoughtful, and almost dark introduction. Jozef plucks at his lute. Carefully, and slowly, he plucks and probes the strings. They resonate, resulting in a sound that veers between dark and ominous, to an ethereal and hopeful sound. One word however, describes the track perfectly, cinematic.

Meandering and chiming, Jozef’s lute sets the scene on You Can’t Take It With You. Then he scats, before unleashing a deliberate, urgent vocal. As usual, his lyrics are full of social comment. A case in point is when he sings: “until the next damaged world we go… your worldly possessions what will they do.…You Can’t Take It With You” Part poetry, part philosophy, Jozef Van Wissem ruminates on greed and avarice, cutting to the chase, with the conclusion “You Can’t Take It With You.”

Straight away, Temple Dance Of The Soul has an avant-garde sound. A scratchy sound flits across the arrangement. All the time, the arrangement pulsates. That’s even the case when Jozef’s lute enters. It wanders across the arrangement, with Jim’s guitar for company. Assailing them are a myriad of scratches and glitches. That’s not forgetting that pulsating sounds. It’s the arrangement’s heartbeat, as elements of electronica, avant-garde, classical and folk combine to create a hypnotic soundscape.

Wistful, spacious and full of pregnant pauses describes After We Leave. It’s a create a mesmeric, pensive and captivating cinematic track where ethereal beauty is omnipresent.

Closing  It Is Time For You To Return is Invocation Of The Spirit Spell. It features Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan. Her tender, heartfelt vocal provides the perfect foil to the rest of the arrangement. It’s a fusion of lute and washes of buzzing guitar and glitch. The guitar unleashes washes of controlled feedback. Along with a thoughtfully strummed lute, this is  the perfect foil for the breathy beauty of Yasmine Hamdan’s vocal. This glorious fusion from music’s past, present and future proves a breathtaking way to close  It Is Time For You To Return.

For anyone yet to discover the music of avant-garde composer, and baroque lutenist, Jozef Van Wissem then It Is Time For You To Return is the perfect starting place. It’s a breathtaking aural adventure. Featuring nine understated and hypnotic tracks, It Is Time For You To Return features Jozef at his innovative best. The music is captivating, compelling, ethereal, hopeful, hypnotic, melancholy, mysterious and wistful. That’s not all. 

On several of the tracks on It Is Time For You To Return, Jozef’s lyrics are full of social comment. Jozef isn’t averse to commenting on the state of the world. His lyrics are veer between hope to hopelessness. There’s hope on Love Destroys All Evil. Confinement paints a picture of hopelessness, as days become months, months become years. All the time, the clock is ticking. Then on You Can’t Take It With You, Jozef deals with greed and avarice. Wealth and possessions, he points out, You Can’t Take It With You. These tracks showcase Jozef Van Wissem, whose part poet and philosopher. That’s not all.

Jozef Van Wissem creates innovative, groundbreaking and genre-melting music. On It Is Time For You To Return, elements of ambient, avant-garde, baroque, classical, electronica, experimental, folk and folk-rock melt into one. You may wonder at the folk-rock element? It’s there though. The guitar on Once More With Feeling remind me of The Byrds. Just like the rest of It Is Time For You To Return musical influences and genres melt into one, on a truly groundbreaking album. This makes Jozef Van Wissem’s It Is Time For You To Return the perfect candidate for the return of Crammed Discs’ Made To Measure series.

For those unfamiliar with the Made To Measure Composers’ Series, it’s best described as the musical equivalent of a collection of art books. These albums are a reminder of some of the most innovative, important and interesting instrumental music of an era. A total of  thirty-five albums were released between 1983 and 1995. This included albums by musical luminaries  like Harold Budd, Fred Frith, Arto Lindsay, Steven Brown, Brion Gysin, David Cunningham and Daniel Schell. Now, nineteen long years after the last in the Made To Measure series, it makes a very welcome return. 

For the return of the Made To Measure series, Crammed Discs were looking for a very special album. That’s what Jozef Van Wissem’s It Is Time For You To Return is. It’ll be released on Crammed Discs on 10th November 2014. It Is Time For You To Return is an ambitious and groundbreaking album from Jozef Van Wissem, true musical innovator.



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