Jozef van Wissem & Jim Jarmusch, The Mystery of Heaven

Jayson Greene

By Jayson Greene

on 11.09.12 in Reviews

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: An avant-garde Dutch lutist, an American indie filmmaker, and Tilda Swinton walk into a studio. It might sound like the set-up from a grad student mixer, but in fact it’s the back story for The Mystery of Heaven, a collaboration in which Jozef Van Wissem (lutist), Jim Jarmusch (filmmaker) and Swinton (playing Herself, in a walk-on cameo) hunker down and produce 47 minutes of majestically free-floating, absorbingly evil and ecstatic drone. Wissem’s lute playing is extraordinarily sensitive; every perfectly sculpted note lands like a rain-drop on your forehead. His clean-lined, sorrowful playing stirs echoes of the lute’s Renaissance roots without running aground in Renaissance-Faire territory; he has toured with James Blackshaw, and his playing here exudes some of the same spare beauty.

Majestically free-floating, absorbingly evil and ecstatic drone

Jarmusch, meanwhile, defaces the sound’s placid surface with an endless progression of feedback waves. His whining drones hang gloomily over the entire album, giving it a slightly shell-shocked aura, like a field the morning after a battle. As for Tilda, consider her appearance on the “The More She Burns The More Beautifully She Glows” a bit of Jarmusch’s master casting: As an actor, she emits a frighteningly coiled ferocity, which she exploits to the fullest here by coolly reciting a text borrowed from Mechtchild’s Flowing Light of the Godhead that dances lightly between religious and sexual ecstasy.