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Church Music
Artist: David Crowder Band
Label: sixsteps / Sparrow Records
Time: 17 Tracks / 73 mins

Some say that the album is dying, but David Crowder Band, always looking for a fresh approach, has recorded this collection over a seamless backing. The band first planned the song sequence, then programmed the initial track, recorded layers on top and then re-recorded some of the initial track, leaving the rest of it undisturbed. Furthermore it loops, the under-layer of the final piece leading back into the start of the disc.

Of course, all that is irrelevant if the songs themselves are no good. As it happens, this is their best to date and even more cohesive than previous bests.

Personally, I have had a rocky road with this band. Their early material was typically derivative for a CCM act and releases like Lime included a substantial amount of worthless filler. It was the far more innovative A Collision that started to change my view of them, where a wider musical spectrum met some strong songs. Then their Remedy Club Tour Edition CD/DVD revealed how far their sound had developed. I found it playing in my machine after it had been sitting there for some while and I wondered briefly if I was listening to something like Floyd before it sunk in who was actually performing.

Church Music succeeds because it melds their creative side to decent songs, and then bathes the lot in electronica. It’s as if the Newsboys got smoother and fuller, especially on the joyous electro-disco-funk of “Dance” and driving tracks like "Nearness" and “Eastern Hymn” (where classical / Tull fans will recognize a tucked-away sample of “Bourée”).

The electronica is vital, as some of these pieces could sound thread-bare and derivative without it. “The Veil” works because the line “What a saviour, what a king” is propelled by a jet engine rhythm over a wall of sound. However, as much as I love it, I can’t help wondering whether the electronica is a little overdone. Like dressing up a peasant in finery to pass him off as royalty in front of you, there is a slight sense of possibly being duped. Still, I’d rather be duped by an ambitious and creative collective than be fed mediocre fare that no one has tried to clothe in any art at all.

Having distinctively original and crafted music frees the listener to bathe in the grace and celebration that these songs are often about. Also, these words of praise to God get the sonic power that they deserve, such as on “Alleluia, Sing” and “What a Miracle” (which even echoes Andy Hunter as it hits the chorus).

At last we have music that spans the ‘contemporary’ and ‘worship’ categories. Intense, majestic and full of life, if a tad overblown, this is the sort of music the church needs more of. At a stroke, it has rendered most of the Christian industry’s output obsolete.

Derek Walker


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