Jozef Van Wissem
Ex Patris
Important LP/CD

Inscribed within the digipak of Ex Patris is a passage by Gilles Deleuze about the transgressive nature of repetition. Transgression and repetition are both essential to lutenist Jozef Van Wissem’s music. He has combined the palindromic structure of classical lute music with the tracing and retracing of more contemporary minimalist composition. And in the interest of rehabilitating his ancient instrument he has dragged the lute into some profane settings, such as playing duets with experimental and blues guitarists, and letting Maurizio Bianchi turn 500 year old lute compositions into a black cloud of industrial sound. Here he makes nice without compromising his essential structural concerns. The tunes are as rigorously constructed as ever. They are, composed of palindromes that step up and then back down, and are repeated with subtle variations throughout each piece. What’s different is how overtly pretty the figures are, and how he uses overdubbing to layer them so that the compositions open up like sped-up films of blossoming flowers. While it has served Van Wissem’s proseletyzing purpose to put the lute in unusual places, it also makes sense that at some point he would make a record this user-friendly. He’s done it, though, without compromise, and you would have to be unhealthily in love with your own bad-assedness to turn your back on music this lovely. And to reach out even more, Van Wissem has presented this album three different ways. The 4-track LP looks and sounds gorgeous; the CD adds two extra tracks, and is mastered so richly that the non-turntable-enabled population should not feel slighted; and if you want to check it out risk free, Van Wissem has placed the whole album on line at (). You have no excuse not to listen.
Bill Meyer.