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united bible studies & jozef van wissem-downland lp (incunabulum)

Price: $23.99


Dutch lutenist Jozef van Wissem is renowned for his experimental approach to Renaissance and Baroque forms of lute music. By cutting-and-pasting classical pieces, constructing palindromic melodies, or adding electronics and processed field recordings, he manages to seamlessly bridge the musical languages of the 17th and 21st centuries. If this approach seems coldly academic on paper, the results are anything but: his music is uncluttered and direct, with a viscerally hypnotic and emotional impact, and delivered with an ascetic intensity reflected both in his Biblical titles and his No Wave influences. He has collaborated with James Blackshaw, Smegma, Keiji Haino and Jim Jarmusch, amongst others. Mostly based in Ireland, the ever-shifting line-ups of United Bible Studies have spent the last decade roaming far and wide from their folk roots, exploring ecstatic group improvisation, song-craft, and studio-based prog epics. The album title Downland is a play both on van Wissem's Lowlands home, and the Renaissance lute composer John Dowland, rumored to have been born in Ireland. The seeds of this collaboration were sown in late 2007, when United Bible Studies were part of the bill for van Wissem's first Irish concert. He was particularly taken with Paul Condon's bass playing and eventually wrote a piece with this in mind, which became the ecstatic "Come Holy Ghost." Van Wissem began recording tracks for United Bible Studies to overdub and a postal collaboration began in earnest in 2009. The Bible Students were given a free hand, and different band members were drawn to different pieces. Áine O'Dwyers' harp playing goes hand in glove with the lute parts, both players favoring hypnotic figures accruing impact over time. The album is bookended by two different versions of the same composition, "Downland" and "The Seas Have Lifted Up Their Voice." Propulsive and metronomic, with Beach Boys-inspired harmonies, it led UBS to a new way of working. Van Wissem's pieces were either stark and minimal, or had multi-layered harmonies which led UBS into less-than-familiar territory. The sparser pieces lent themselves to being shaped into songs, and the addition of extemporaneous textures. Van Wissem wrote the lyrics for "Altars Of Brick (The Day Is Coming)" for Alison O'Donnell to sing. Its ominous tone inspired Gavin Prior to write the tangentially-related "Í Rith na h-Óiche" in Gaelic. O'Donnell did historical research for her courtly romance "Seven Tears," named after Dowland's famous song cycle. The Bible Students have woven murk and mystery around the lucid austerity of van Wissem's compositions, together creating an album which is unlike anything in either of their substantial back catalogs and more than the mere sum of its parts. United Bible Studies are: Paul Condon, Diarmuid MacDiarmada, Alison O'Donnell, Áine O'Dwyer, Ivan Pawle and Gavin Prior.

Track Listing: A1. DOWNLAND (8:14) A2. Seven Tears (3:30) A3. Trade Boys For Prostitutes Sell Girls For Wine (3:47) B1. Come Holy Ghost (3:28) B2. Altars Of Brick (The Day Is Coming) (2:40) B3. I Rith Na h-Óiche (3:54) B4. The Seas Have Lifted Up Their Voice (5:22)

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