At the Close of Every Day – Zalig ijn de Armen van Geest

At the Close of Every Day
Zalig ijn de Armen van Geest

I’m a picky music junkie – one former student of mine from a class on music and ethics recently commented humorously about my “crazy musical snobbishness” – but I give new artists the benefit of the doubt. That notwithstanding, it’s often frustrating when an album requires repeated listens in order to be minimally, if not fully, appreciated. Zalig Zijn de Armen van Geest (Blessed are the Poor in Spirit in Dutch) posed no such burden. This is a quiet, obscure album that reaches your heart and conscience from the first foggy note and doesn’t let go until almost 40 minutes later. That was when Zalig Zijn de Armen van Geest ended and my pleasure from listening to this 12-track record mandated a repeated listen.

Zalig Zijn de Armen van Geest opens with the minute-long instrumental, “Hemelsblauw.” Imagine the music for a protagonist’s pre-dawn awakening in a Mike Figgis film. “The Sound of Someone Watching Me” has Minco Eggersman singing wearily and lovingly in a manner similar to Nick Drake’s vocal efforts, but Eggersman sounds slower, more down on his luck. “The Sound of Someone Watching Me,” detailing the end of a relationship, is unique in its lyrical acceptance of the doomed connection. Significantly, Eggersman and Axel Kabboord begin their next anecdote of fragile love, “Hallways,” with a faster, upbeat melody buoying the words, “I hope this finds you well.”

Among the many highlights of Zalig Zijn de Armen van Geest, the gorgeous instrumental tracks stand out. “The Glory of Ignorance” recalls The Durutti Column’s more serene moments on The Return of The Durutti Column and LC. The silky mesh of electric and acoustic guitars and perfect touches of Hammond organ make “The Glory of Ignorance” a stunning track befitting inclusion on many quality film soundtracks. Think Brian Eno with less space and more humanity and you may have an inkling of this recording’s magic. “Dealing with Hatred” is slightly quicker than “The Glory of Ignorance” but equally impressive. It’s a perfect segue for so many emotions.

Eggersman and Kabboord are remarkable interpreters of nostalgia and instinctive sentiment with their instrumentals. “Weltschmerz Konzept” is a more stripped and somber non-verbal track. Less synthesized than Vitesse, the two Dutchmen consistently create similarly compelling tracks that often impact more than their strong lyrical counterparts. Still, gently strummed declarations like “Rain or Shine” bring forth an appealing singing approach that sounds like The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan fronting Red House Painters. On “In the Light I Wrap My Tears,” Eggersman and Kabboord change the pace several times over three minutes, mixing sparse lyrical pauses with complacent energy. The title track, sung in Dutch, comes off like a wintry lullaby and ends with almost a minute of minimalist chords.

Zalig Zijn de Armen van Geest is an impressive, consistently stimulating debut album that displays a clear talent for writing and performing evocative songs. Most of the dozen tracks by At the Close of Every Day grab the listener without delay, whether lyrically or merely by chords, and the effect is sheer, tranquil pleasure. Zalig Zijn de Armen van Geest is an album best suited for fall or winter, but it can complement moments of solitude during even the sunniest days of the year. At the Close of Every Day hits the mark without any unfulfilled ambitions. If only the Dutch national soccer team were as successful…