In our culture, we place an inflated premium on novelty. We have a propensity to easily discard the old in favor of the new. This is why like gushing water worship songs are being released, sung a few times and they are quickly discarded into the oldies bin. And in an effort to keep up with prodigious demands for new music, many of our worship songs recycle the same hooks, clichés and they are lyrically as thin as sliced bread. Sometimes all that is needed is to take some of the classics give it a little re-construction, polish off the imperfections, add a layer of varnish and there you have a song re-imagined with mystery and awe again. This is why we have "remix" projects. These projects give us fresh and arresting lenses for us to see, to hear and to experience new truths out of our worship favorites. Following in the footsteps of Hillsong United and Capital Kings, Jesus Culture has also released their first remix project "Reconstructed Vol. 1" this month.
The numerical notation on the album's titular "Vol.1" is most telling: this means that there will be similar remix projects line up in the pipe. As a result, this first instalment only contains 11 songs, many of them lifted from their 2012 "Live from New York" record with only a small spattering from their earlier efforts. But as an added bonus they have also given the remix treatments to some of the solo recordings of Jesus Culture's worship leaders such as Kim Walker-Smith, Chris Quilala, Bryan and Katie Torwalt and Derek Johnson. But before we get to examine some of the songs on this record, it's fair to say a word about Jesus Culture. Jesus Culture is more than just the worship team from Bethel Church in Redding, California. They are a movement created to encourage youth and young adults to be so soaked in the worship of Jesus. To date, they are still causing a stir among churches and beyond with their music as contained through their 9 album and 20 other side project releases.
However, unlike Hillsong United's latest remix project where various remixers are brought on board, here Jesus Culture have utilized their own in-house producer Lucas Hogg to add his "Oh Snap It's Luke Remix imprints on all 12 cuts. On the whole, not all the remixes work, those that add depth and dimension to the originals include album opener "Forevermore." Here Lucas Hogg flexes his creative magic to show us how electronica can be used in the service of worship. Adding fresh sounding electronic reverbs and by delaying the frequency of the beats, an echoey passage of time is sonically created to "Forevermore." Such a travelogue of time is most appropriate of the song's lyrics which are about praising God from now to eternity. Similarly, the jagged riffs, the pounding drums and the gripping bassline have a way of putting a new layer of zest befitting of the words to Kim Walker-Smith's "Alive." While the original version of Bryan and Katie Torwalt's "He is the Light" has a raw rock-ish feel, Hoggs' synth driven reading almost transforms this worship song into a brand new song.
Yet, not every 'reconstruction" is necessarily an improvement. The over sampling of repeated lines of "Awaken Me" with the slightly mechanically tweaked sounds makes the song sound more like a plangent cry than a call to worship. "Rooftops," a tad lighter on the synth programming works out a little better, though one couldn't say it adds anything to its original. And what trademarks the worship of Jesus Culture is the raw big balladry roar which is compromised in the overcrowded sounding "Pursuit." So with a remix project, there are some give and take moments. Though Lucas Hogg may bring some level of excitement and re-imagination to these sonic reconstructions, there are still some elements of worship that is better left untouched by computers and keyboards.