• jozef van wissem Stations of the Cross (CD, £13.25)

    label: Incunabulum

    Jozef van Wissem has been slowly reinventing the lute for the last three decades. Among the slew of fast-picking, fancy-fretting guitar players so prevalent today, his lute's voice is a quiet oasis, and Stations of the Cross a small masterpiece. The 14 compositions here follow the 14 stations of the cross, a ritual of observance built from the final moments in Christ's life before he was crucified. Certain tropes appear throughout. Slow, mournful arpeggios are returned to again and again. When played on the slack stringed lute, notes are left hanging solitarily and isolated in their own lacunas only to be left in greater silence by the pauses van Wissem leaves between each arpeggio on tracks like "Dew Drops fall like Tears at Eventide", You Can't go Home Again" and " The Great Wheel". Occasionally higher register harmonies or fanned chords add colour, but the musical sense is one of a doleful and sombre procession. Four tracks contain field recordings drawn from waiting rooms and station platforms. When voices can be picked out, they ask for directions or appear to be wandering lost in the impersonal purgatory of the nonplaces of modern life. These mark poignant moments of Christ's journey - his first fall ("Low Mass") and his death on the cross ("Pilgrim Talk"). They also create the most spiritual effect by enveloping events in a lost, transitory soundscape and counterpointing the human and the divine, the sacred and the profane. - Nick Southgate, The Wire

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