Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Review: Rend Collective Experiment, "Organic Family Hymnal"

Rend Collective Experiment - Organic Family Hymnal As far as the worship world goes, it's been hard to ignore Rend Collective Experiment. Back in April, they made a huge stir with their remake of "How Great Is Our God." I could explain it, but it'll be more fun if you watch it.

Since then, tons of tweets, re-posts and other social network methods have spread word about this unique group of musicians and friends and their new project, Organic Family Hymnal.

The big thing here is 'collective.' That's the overarching theme in all of the marketing for this new record - that these are just good friends who dig making music with each other. And while sincerity is in the eye of the beholder, hearing the folks from RCE talk about their vision and the goal of their music is really convincing. Even though, the 'community' thing is the obvious push in the promotion of the record, it rings true. I think it's the real thing and not just a marketing ploy. Let's break it down.

MUSIC This band may not sound like the Beatles, but in the end, Organic Family Hymnal sounds like the kind of record the Beatles would have made back in their serious overdubbing/production phase. Bursts of horns, reverberant clapping, exquisite vocal oohs and ahs spread here and there all combine to create quite the musical experience. The more 'normal' instrumentation is pretty standard (although the acoustic guitar work is pretty great) but the melodies are pretty engaging. Quite a few songs had a strong "English folk-pop" attitude (think Mumford) but most of those opened up creatively and became their own thing without copying any one genre. There's some rocking here, but it's mostly the shoe-gazing variety. RCE makes great music that's perfect for moments that are a bit more relaxed. A brief YouTube search reveals that RCE's live shows are plenty lively, so the record may present a more subtle side of the band.

SONGS There's a lot of great poetry here, which is rare in worship music. There's not much linearity, though. A lot of the songs are thematically vague while lyrically impressive. Essentially, the songs are saying much...but they're saying it beautifully. The creative way the songs are arranged certainly build plenty of "hook" in the project. You'll remember these tunes for sure. For me, the strongest tunes were "Faithful," a nicely designed power tune that plays the dynamic perfectly. There's even a guest star in verse 2 who sounds remarkably like David Crowder.....hmmm. "Movements" will certainly catch a lot of ears. It's not as thematically stronger as some of the other songs, but it is memorable. I liked the massive "Exalt." While the chorus may play too repetitive to some, it's a great sing-along.

Any record as varied as this is bound to have some material that can be integrated into the local church. The value in Organic Family Hymnal is hearing those interesting and bold musical choices and realizing that they do take the songs to a different place. While I think the songs are saying stuff that's relatively universal and redundant in the church of today, I do think there's value to hearing it and letting your team listen to it. For teams afraid to try new things, a few of these songs might work perfectly.

I came away with mixed emotions on this project. I enjoyed listening to the project and thought it had some really cool stuff in it. But I'm not sure I'll use any of the songs for my church. However, I think most worship leaders and teams would feel musically stretched after hearing it and that's always a good thing.

Have you heard it?
Do you like it?