Symbiotica 
Artist: Symbiotica  
Label: Graceland Records 

In a year filled with a myriad of good Christian albums, it is easy to overlook smaller, quality releases. Symbiotica's self-titled album qualifies as such a release.  Produced by musical chameleon Lanny Cordola along with Gary Thomas Griffin and Chuck Wright, Symbiotica offers a sound not like anything available elsewhere in the Christian marketplace. Its rich texture can be attributed to the exotic sounds of the koto, bazuki, flute, duduk, melodica, and the extraordinary vocal styles of Sandra Stephens, Kai, Lamya, Lygia, and Ann Brown. 

Symbiotica gleans musical styles from around the globe and opens with a song called "Missionary." The lyrics are succinct and touch the heart. 

    You don't look for numbers, 
    you don't look for fame, 
    you don't look at colors, or anyone to blame 
    you sow the seeds of Utmost High, 
    you sow the seeds of hope, 
    you sow the seeds and hold a dying child, 
    your compassion helps them cope 
    Missionary
The third cut, "Wilderness Call," features a captivating percussion beat accompanying the vocals of Sandra Stephens who is terrific as usual.  After a short instrumental interlude, "Tai He Dian," Kai confronts us in "Space for Rent" with issues relating to the information age and space exploration. The questions raised in this song search out the anxieties of a society dominated by technology, but the next track, "Chemical," returns the listener to the spiritual cry of the individual. A driving bass guitar, multiple music styles, pace changes and Lamya form the musical framework to lyrics reminiscent of the Psalms. In an era of modern Christianity that seems to have man asking for the blessings of the flesh, this refreshing song reminds us of our vital need to be cleaned from the heart out.  

purge me - guard me - cleanse me - defend me strip away my guilt - strip away my pain - strip away my sadness 
wash it down the drain 
remove this pagan fluid 
through every pore and cell 
take away the beast that lives in me 
and lock him up in hell. 

Our musical journey leads into Celtic sounds featuring Lygia in "My Father's Cross."  This slower paced prayer takes us into the Middle Eastern sounds of "Le Recherche." The combination of the exotic Indian sounds with a French reading from the book of Revelations courtesy of Myriam Ostermann and the enchanting vocals of Ann Brown, causes one to visualize sitting at a large feast and partaking in the delicacies of stuffed pizza, Coca-cola and entertainment provided by liturgical dancers with long flowing gowns, allowing God to speak to His creation in an unknown language. The album ends the way one would expect a Lanny Cordola album to end, with four shorter music-heavy cuts.  The back-to-back songs "March of the Most High" and "God Only Knows" remind me of Jeff Johnson's early music.  The jazz-influenced melody inspires you to envision yourself on streets of gold marching to the throne of the Father, and having Him soothe your soul in a way only God would know how to do. I would suggest that the next time you are visiting a music store with a listening area, you take ten minutes and give it a try.  It will not be time wasted. 

By Sam Hagedorn 

 

If I had looked at this carefully, I probably wouldn't have bought it. The name made them sound like a techno band so I bought it.  Then I noticed it was produced by Lanny Cordola, Gary Thomas Griffin, and Chuck Wright. These guys were doing Shack of Peasants last I heard of them. I'm not fond of compilations plus there's a big difference between blues and techno. What had I bought?  I gingerly put the cd in, hit the play button, and waited.  The sound of bells hit my ears, then a techno beat, a little world music, and then a heavenly female voice. Wow! Many musicians have tried to recreate themselves with a new sound.  Few have succeeded. These guys have! Jeff Johnson, David Fitzgerald, and Iona fans watch out! 

The liner notes state "From the deepest pores of being comes the enigmatic symbiosis, the deep cerebral longing for love and unity, to fill the void with God's love, the symbiotic love for all creation." It probably comes as close as anything to describing this sonic treat.  You'll find flutes, guitars, oboes, duduks, clarinets, kotos, bass, drums, and, well I think you get the idea. All blend together perfectly to form the world music of Symbiotica.  The vocalists are never named but when present, they serve to enhance the music with songs from "Chemical" to "My Father's Cross."   

Ready for something new and exciting? Try this.  It will convince you that Christians don't have to make second class music. I've told the editor that I'd never give an album a five unless it "walked on water," but this is about as close as you can get.-----Shari Lloyd 
 

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