Based in Brooklyn but originally hailing from the medieval Dutch border town of Maastricht, Jozef van Wissem is a unique musician who plays a unique instrument – a custom-built, twin-necked, 24-string lute. It is through this striking instrument that he channels his austere but atmospheric music, which weaves its way through classical minimalism, industrial folk and cinematic instrumentals (he has worked extensively with Jim Jarmusch and won the Cannes Soundtrack Award for the score of Only Lovers Left Alive).
It’s tempting to assume the title of Jozef van Wissem’s latest album, Nobody Living Can Ever Make Me Turn Back, is a reference to his move from The Netherlands where, as he told The Quietus in 2014, he owned “a hangout for squatters and musicians in the early nineties named De Klok in the city of Groningen, and lived a wild sort of life.” Instead, the album is inspired by a contemporary vanitas painting by the Belgian artist Cindy Wright, as seen on the cover, resulting in a record that seems to flutter between light and darkness, life and death.
We were recently lucky enough to see van Wissem perform live in the fitting surroundings of Stoke Newington’s Old Church, the only surviving Elizabethan church in London. The hushed, reverent ambience proved the perfect setting for his unwinding compositions, while some tracks (particularly the vocal numbers) were charged with the sort of heightened drama you might expect from the likes of Nick Cave.
The tour is currently in Italy, and we urge all our Italian readers to make a note of these dates. The rest of you can enjoy Nobody Living Can Ever Make Me Turn Back on Bandcamp or via Belgian label Consouling Sounds. Listen to standout track ‘c’ below.
Photo: Elena Karpova