Dutch lutenist Jozef Van Wissem has forged an unusual career playing one of the world's most ancient instruments, but keeping current is not his concern. Wissem's music is timeless and unhindered by convention. Nihil Obstat, the title of his 2013 release on Important Records, literally translates to "nothing hinders." As both a composer and player of the baroque lute, there are few in the world doing what he does and his hypnotic and deeply resonant songs transcend boundaries and genres. Past collaborations with such varied artists as film director Jim Jarmusch, actress Tilda Swinton, and synth pop act Zola Jesus have all helped to distance Wissem and his custom-built black lute from the trappings of what is generally considered classical music. On Nihil Obstat, there are no collaborations and no other instruments. As the title suggests, nothing hinders. It is truly a work for solo lute. Dark, lonely dirges like the album-opening "How You Must Have Suffered" and "Nothing Stands Between Us" reverberate ominously, while the epic ten-minute "Where You Lived and What You Lived For" plays back and forth gorgeously between its light and dark hemispheres. Mystic in tone, minimalist in nature, and rich with melancholy, Nihil Obstat is a work of art that demands respect but requires patience.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger