The Mystery of Heaven
Sacred Bones Records
The second of three collaborative albums released in the same year between composer Jozef van Wissem and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, The Mystery of Heaven also features actress Tilda Swinton offering voiceover to the track The More She Burns The More Beautiful She Glows.
No stranger to casting musicians as actors in his films – and to having music as a character within the film, a crucial mood always, Jarmusch has been working with van Wissem for some time, including working on music for his upcoming vampire film, Only Lovers Left Alive. And van Wissem will have a small part in the film also. And that’s the connection with Swinton; she’s one of the movie’s stars.
Of their work together so far The Mystery of Heaven is my favourite – Jarmusch’s feedback-guitar battles against van Wissem’s lute playing. And it’s not just a strange juxtaposition of ideas, it’s very much a mixture of musical approaches, though both have backgrounds in musical improvisation van Wissem comes at this with his neo-classical training; he is the one shaping the pieces, dictating the flow. Jarmusch simply brings the noise. But it’s often subdued noise, poetic, beautiful, haunting, howling.
Comments have circulated suggesting the music is the instrumental equivalent of Jarmusch’s films; vague though that is there is something of a carryover mood. The title track is sublime and often – such as on Flowing Light of the Godhead – I think of Lou Reed’s Hudson River Wind Meditations if it contained hints of go-somewhere melody and mood beyond the throb and thrum.
It makes (even more) sense now why Jarmusch had Neil Young making the music for Dead Man; so clearly it was the music he heard in his head, the music he would have played himself if he could.
Here he occasionally comes close to that sound and feel, tracing around it, his guitar-
howls burning holes in the tunes. He’s almost like the kid with the magnifying glass, just trying things out…seeing what happens.
It’s taken Jozef van Wissem to shape this, to make it beautiful. And Jarmusch is smart enough to know that.