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Sounds like … a mix of electronic dance pop and techno with standard Vineyard band-led pop/rock, at times recalling such artists as Moby, Orbital, Bryan Ferry, and David BowieAt a Glance … the very modern production will turn away older listeners, but The Mystery is one of the more creative, meditative, and thoughtful worship albums available today.
It's important to note right upfront, this isn't your typical Vineyard music album.
I'm only saying that to keep expectations in perspective. Vineyard releases a lot of great pop worship songs every year, but there's a tendency for a lot of them to sound the same. Sometimes that's a good thing, but sometimes that can be repetitive and bland. So I was rather surprised by The Mystery, a new worship album from Vineyard Canada that's probably the most modern and progressive worship album Vineyard has ever released. The album is produced by David Ruis, a producer, pastor, and songwriter who's written such well-known worship tunes as "Sweet Mercies," "Every Move I Make," and "Worthy of My Praise." Typically, his music follows the traditional Vineyard pop band format, as heard on this album's "I Hide In You." But then, something happens 2 minutes and 20 seconds into that song — the band's guitar strumming morphs into the pop-dance/techno sound of "Anything For This Love," a lengthy Euro-dance worship song reminiscent of Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry or David Bowie. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly.
This is not your typical Vineyard music album.
The Mystery is inspired by Downpour, a youth worship event sponsored by Winnipeg Centre Vineyard in Canada. Pop-dance electronica is certainly not an unusual sound for modern worship these days (see recent reviews for Apt•Core and Soul Lift, or check out what's going on with teen worship in the UK). It is, however, very unusual for Vineyard to release such an album, and I applaud their willingness to continue stretching their musical horizons, not just to other countries as they have on past albums, but also to other generations and genres.
The album's techno opener, "Is She Ready?," is rife with samples and ambient drum loops that sound like something Moby or Orbital would come up with. It's followed by "Find Your Way to Me," a contemplative and moody bit of electronica with a gentle melody and spoken Scripture that sounds more prayerful and meditative than anything on the recent Vineyard album Prayer. "I've Got a Friend" blends modern rock with an electronic groove and ends with a cool reggae/skat vocal (some may interpret it as speaking in tongues). The beautiful and atmospheric "How I Love You So" sounds like "Breathe" with a beat and ends with a great ebow guitar solo. I also enjoyed the gritty and rhythmic electronic blues sound of "Oh Lord," with its infectious call-and-response chorus. The song leads into a mesmerizing electronic world-music track called "Tribal Tephilah Session." "I Believe" has a modern dance/rock groove with a funky bass riff and a half-spoken melody that sounds like Audio Adrenaline or the Newsboys
This is definitely not your typical Vineyard music album.
Not all of The Mystery is progressive and unusual in its musical scope. "Show Me the Way" and "Moves In Me" are more like typical Vineyard worship songs — they actually sound unusual amdist the cornucopia of other sounds on the album. Both "Rescue Me" and "Every Day" have a nice modern pop sound with a cool melody that jumps up into the falsetto range of lead vocalist Rik Leaf. They're very worshipful, but are they songs everyone can easily sing along to? As for the production, I wouldn't call The Mystery on par with mainstream standards, but it's fairly well done nevertheless. David Ruis is a fine vocalist, but sometimes he isn't a good match for the modern pop/rock he sings. However, he does manage a nice Bono (U2) impersonation on "Faithful." Those small criticisms aside, I appreciate The Mystery very much for bringing the listener into a state of worship while glorifying God through different and creative visions of music. Youth groups and listeners looking for something a little unusual will like what this project has to offer.
Have I mentioned that this isn't your typical worship album?