I must admit, its been many years since I’ve been really pleased with a Jim Jarmusch film. I was an obsessive fan of his work in the 80′s and 90′s. From Stranger than Paradise all the way through Ghost Dog, I anticipated each release. Although I don’t care for his film work these days, I was excited to hear about his musical endeavors with the Dutch Lutist and composer, Jozef van Wissem.
Most might be surprised to hear that this is not Jarmusch’s first musical outing. It is a continuation of the work he did with Wissem on last year’s The Joy That Never Ends album. Not only that but he was keyboardist for the understandably ill-fated early 80′s New York art punk band “The Del-Byzanteens”. Knowing the latter, you may question his musical abilities, but due to his outstanding curating of his own film scores as well as ATP 2010, I do not.
Jozef van Wissem has been releasing albums for the past twelve years. He is known for a conceptual and minimal style of arcane and non-linear progressions that bridge a gap between 17th century ideas and the improvisational and cut and paste tactics of the now. Specializing in experimenting with Baroque and Renaissance forms, he somehow never compromises the traditional sound of the lute, and this is the most impressive aspect of his formula.
All that being said, how did he end up playing with Jim Jarmusch? Was it a marketing tactic or a stunt? Not in the least. Jarmusch is a competent and interesting minimal guitarist. The duo calmly work through five lengthy numbers on this record. Baroque sentiment, warm pastoral folk tomes, strong yet unspoken themes of meditation and even a track with the droning and distorted electric guitar weave a quilt of spirituality similar to the Zen ideas presented in Jarmusch’s classic film, Dead Man, yet, this time around, the Zen is replaced with a similarly subversive religious element, Gnosticism. Three titles are named after Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg’s work. In fact, the closing track contains a reading that seems to summarize all of the ideas they have instrumentally presented.
“He is hanging by his shiny arms, His heart an open wound. Set your eyes on the cross, Set your tongue to speak of his passion.”
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This article originally appeared at: Adequacy.net