Jozef van Wissem & Jim Jarmusch | An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil
Sacred Bones Records (LP/CD/DL)
There exists a certain reticent simplicity at the heart of ‘An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil’, with each of its elements rendered somehow faintly, a considered fragility that highlights the skill of its composers and players. It is a surprisingly subtle affair, the sort of thing one might describe as ‘easy listening’, though without the latent condemnation that term usually invokes. On its surface, the album is a mixture of perfectly groomed drones and hypnotic, alt-folk guitars. It’s not a world away from some of the more ambient moments of Earth’s later work, and similarly reminiscent of Aidan Baker’s admirably single-minded output.
The beauty of ‘An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil’ is that it never strays into the harsh or difficult. Jozef van Wissem & Jim Jarmusch have produced an almost plodding, lethargic sound-world, that wielded by lesser hands might well slip into the realm of the banal. Here, however, their machinations are cast with an earthen, joyless economy, a certain seriousness that manages to signify gravitas rather than pomposity. That each instrument is subject to a dull glaze might be of concern if it was not this very opacity that provides such character, as if every pluck of the guitar, every murky drone is in a constant state of tension with itself, fighting to be heard above its own clandestine nature.
As pleasant as it may be, the album perpetually risks feeling a little unnecessary. Though the majority of the proceedings are extremely well executed, and imbued with the aforementioned strength of character, there is no hiding that the sum of its parts is an album that rarely stands out amongst a crowded field of people doing ‘this sort of thing’. That Jim Jarmusch is, well, Jim Jarmusch, no doubt helps differentiate the album from its peers, though its fortitude is really more to do with the precision and detail of its performance. Whilst the album as a whole might be a little middle-of-the-road, the tracks of which it is comprised maintain interest not for breaking new musical ground, but for the manner in which they are executed. The general sense of lethargic grace by which the songs are orientated, is set against a conflicting specificity, as if the performers held their own rambling improvisations to such a high standard that every audible moment was one of deep consideration. Although many of the tracks feel as if they are at least semi-improvised, there is a sense that for every minute of the album, 30 minutes remained on the editing rooms analogical floor.
It would be painfully trite to describe ‘An Attempt to Draw Aside the Veil’ as being in some way ‘filmic’, and yet it no doubt is. It relies upon a sense of space, an openness that lesser composers might fear, for all the potential boredom that it skirts. Whilst in truth the album walks a path that is occasionally a little too well-trodden, that fact alone in no way impacts upon the quality of the music produced in the process. Between the repetitive, arpeggiated guitar of ‘The Unclouded Day’, and the near post-metal drones of ‘When the Sun Rises Do You Not See a Round Disk of Fire’, there is surprisingly degree of variance, and it should be noted that it is the composers competence, rather than their pre-existing fame, that so often elevates this record to such great heights.