Deep Peace: Late Late Service Volume 5
"The Late Late Service is an ecumenical Christian community based in Glasgow. We were founded in 1990 and are committed to the democratization of worship. Women and men are equal partners in our work and leadership, and each member has an opportunity to lead and shape our worship. Together we work to develop creative ritual and spirituality in the context of a supportive community. As Christians, we are united around the common creeds of the church and work in partnership with other local churches. We try to be open to the widest dimensions of the Christian church and to celebrate and explore our faith through the media of the culture in which we live." (from the album sleeve)
Among the legion of "alternative worship" groups that have sprung up in the last ten years or so, there have been a variety of approaches taken. Some have attempted to always be at the cutting edge, taking whatever musical style, slang, imagery etc. which is currently popular and converting it for their own use. Others have done away with any kind of imagery, ritual, and liturgy altogether. Still more have attempted to use the existing imagery of the church, alongside modern cultural influences, and re-invent these things as part of their own worship as a corporate body. The Late Late Service is one of the latter group, and this approach has kept them from becoming quickly outdated (a problem with the first group) and from ending up with an unintended liturgical approach (as the second group is prone to do). This approach leads to an interesting musical output; many members of the community have contributed to the music featured on this album, including Andy Thornton, festival manager at Greenbelt, and members of Lies Damned Lies.
The songs are divided into three sections: "Songs," "Psalms," and "Meditations" - with 15 tracks and a total duration of 76 minutes.
The "Songs" section contains seven tracks, starting with "Come Holy Spirit," a chanted invitation over stringed instruments. Drum machines and spacious keyboard sounds are introduced on the second track. This second track is a good example of the group's mixture of world music, traditional elements, and more modern innovations - bringing to mind bands like Dead Can Dance (but still quite distinctive from that band; less traditional). The vocals on this track are muffled at times, and contrast a little with the lyrics:
A song of joy and lasting peace
I saw new Heaven and new earth
The pain of the earth has been relieved
The "Psalms" section contains only three tracks, based on Psalms 116, 1, and 86. The first track is sung in harmony, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, which leads to a strong emphasis on the lyrics:
When I was low he took my part
And when I call on God, I know he hears me
The "Meditations" are instrumental; the first three utilize a string quartet, while the second two center more on keyboard-based instruments. This is my favorite of the three sections. While the five of them last 35 minutes, they are immensely relaxing and certainly suited to times of meditation and prayer.
Overall, this disc will prove interesting to anyone wanting to explore new styles of worship. It is a difficult album to listen to in one sitting (it may be better listening to it on a programmable CD player), but it is a refreshing break from the seemingly formulaic approach of so many worship albums, and shows growth from the Late Late Service's earlier material.
By James Stewart