Fusing CCM, jazz and classical with choral moments and a touch of Latin, this intelligent, creative and technically excellent worship disc has created a space all of its own.
Label: LuceMusic London
Time: 10 tracks / 41 mins.
I love the creativity (and sometimes excitement) of genre-crossing, but when albums like this mix things up so much, it makes the sounds very hard to describe.
Jazz is definitely present at the start, whether the swing and horn arrangements of “Holy God,” the bass solo in “The Sun will Rise,” or the piano chords in “Beyond Wonder” and the title track. “Beyond Wonder” has a fine trumpet solo, and its keys also remind me of the guitar rhythms in traditional Celtic tunes.
“Sing to You” has a Latin feel from the trumpet, rhythms and percussion – but suffers some self-conscious callouts in the middle.
“Holy God” is decorated by beads of synth, sections with brass backing and a part that intricately interweaves vocals.
Then they bring out the strings towards the end for “When We Look at Jesus” and the piano-led “Evensong.”
The title track alternately breaks down into a funky riff, some jazz chords, a simple choral section and a gospelly close. This is both its strength and its weakness. The creativity adds a welcome colour – as does the atmospheric break in “Holy God” – but, much as it pains me to say it, the clever arrangements can disrupt the flow. The sparse opening to “Remind Me” reflects the lyrics about Jesus’ suffering, and is there to add contrast to the exhilarating climax of the chorus, but that awkward, fractured beginning feels over-stylised.
Similarly, sometimes it feels like, in getting the production details right, the exuberance that the lyrics convey gets held back in the singing.
So, with its “Whoa –oh-oh –oh –oh”s, I welcomed “Jesus our Light” for its straight-ahead CCM in the Tim Hughes mould (although fresher and more vibrant). It may have been a pragmatic choice for radio reasons, but nevertheless, as the only track that seems composed on guitar, rather than piano, it gives the disc a spell of constant rhythm. It’s well-executed too.
Latty and her husband/producer David Luce lecture at the London School of Theology and I can’t help thinking that at times it suffers from project syndrome: as if students are given the task of putting a break into a piece of music and then several all get thrown in to show how much interest they can cram into a few pieces.
Binding these disparate elements is a sense of celebration; not a mindless list of sound-bite lyrics, but intelligently thought-out reasons to have hope in God, because of who he is (this album deliberately looks at different characteristics of God: in Jesus, in suffering, creator, father, liberator and outside time and space).
Album highlight “Spirit of God,” (streamable here) a prayer for God to lead us and send us out, alternates female and male unison lines over a lazy beat, reminiscent of those projects that took Gregorian chants and set them to dance beats. It’s a track to get lost in and a terrific model for using music in prayer. I’d be happy if it lasted two or three times as long.
As they seem frightened to let anything remain basic, this is an example of musicians pursuing excellence: the downside is that, with so many styles, I am left feeling unsure of who they actually are.