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.
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.