Rend Collective Experiment : Homemade Worship By Handmade People
RATING: (10 out of 10) RELEASE DATE: January 10th, 2012 LABEL: Chordant Music Group REVIEWED ON: March 22nd, 2012 REVIEWED BY: Sara NapierREVIEW
A small group of God-fearing men and women are pouring their hearts outs out on a crowded stage, playing a bunch of random instruments (some of which, you’ve probably never heard of or even seen before) while singing a refreshing, high-energy tune. They’re dancing around like they’re on fire, and their smiles fill you with an indescribable joy and sense of camaraderie. They stomp, clap, run around, dance, and even bang on trash cans, all while wearing their Sunday best. You have no idea what is going on, but you don’t care. You just want in and you want in right now: In short, this could give you a good idea of the musicians from Bangor, Ireland, whom we know as Rend Collective Experiment.
I stumbled upon the band by accident one day. I was intrigued by a photo of five of them sitting in a boat, dressed in nice clothing, holding various instruments. The caption simply read, “Homemade Worship By Handmade People,” and I remember thinking “how classy” but didn’t put much more thought into it. A few days later a friend asked about one of their songs. Without knowing it was the same band, I began looking them up. The more I found, the more I liked.
Sometimes, a band can feel a little unrelatable. Some seem to be so far surpassing of everyone that you don’t feel like you would even have the guts to approach them. Rend Collective Experiment is nothing like that even though they have unbelievable skills. They are every bit as humble as they are talented and every bit as friendly as they are interesting! They are as approachable as the worship band from your church, while possessing the skills and professionalism to sell out huge arenas for years to come.
As it turns out, the five members in the photos are about a third of the entire group. Rend Collective Experiment began as just that, an experimental student movement of about 15 friends representing different churches. They say they “started in 2004 as a group of confused 20-somethings started trying to figure out life, God and community." They are artists, musicians and above all, regular people who decided to band together to do something with their talents and the revelations on their hearts. So, when I say they’re approachable, I really mean it.
Much to my delight, I was able to see them perform last month. Two words: Stumpf fiddle! At one point they played a trash can with a stick decorated with colourful ribbons and even rotated instruments a few times (all of this in the course of just three songs!) Everyone plays their instruments very passionately, and after the performance, they like to hang out with fans and make new friends. They are some of the funniest people you could ever hope to meet (even if you can’t always understand their accents), and they’re also some of the friendliest (even they can’t always understand your accent). I have since become a huge fan of this exceptional band full of regular people with unreal talent!
The album begins with "Praise LikeFireworks"(how can you not love a name like that?), a song that echoes the chorus, “You’ve given us a heart, given us a home with You." The album starts with a lot of energy. It sets you up for the whirlwind of beautiful music you’re about to hear.
Perhaps the most talked about track on the album is "You Are My Vision," a take on the classic Irish hymn Be Thou My Vision. The lyrics paint a calming picture. When commenting about it, band member Gareth Gilkeson said “As we translated the song from the Irish and the old English, we soon realized the true meaning of the words were starting to get lost in our culture. This is not a song of longing and asking God to ‘be our vision,’ but it is a song of declaration and faith. We say to God with strength, trust and humanity that ‘You are my vision, You are my wisdom… You are my battle shield.’”
They perform a catchy song with powerful lyrics called "Build Your Kingdom Here." With lyrics like “we seek Your Kingdom first | We hunger and we thirst | Refuse to waste our lives for You’re our joy and prize," this song is pretty much everything I want from a song. It’s passionate, beautifully written and still very fun to listen to. It feels like an anthem song made from a prayer as they repeat the words, “Build Your kingdom here | Let the darkness fear | Show Your mighty hand, heal our streets and land | Set Your church on fire, win this nation back | Change the atmosphere, build Your kingdom here we pray”
My favorite song on the album is "The Cost"; it starts out with a fun beat and a mixture of various instruments and vocals. It begins with the line, “I'm saying yes to You and no to my desires | I'll leave myself behind and follow You,” and that alone is a declaration we can all take on daily. There is something so addictive and joyful about the vocals, keeping my mind in an attitude of praise.
Overall, it’s hard to choose the definite stand-out songs on this record because each song stands out in a different way. Be it through stringed instruments and a sense of desperation on "Desert Soul," the clever beat and use of trumpets on "Shining Star," or the intimate feel of "Keep Me Near," there is something to love about each song. Usually on an album there will be at least one song that feels a bit weaker than the others, but in my opinion, no such song exists on this album.
There is not a song that feels out of place or less important than the others, and I find that makes the album title that much more fitting. There is something so beautiful about a gift that is created by the giver. There is such affection and measure of care placed in a homemade item that you can’t really find in it something copied or manufactured. There is so much personality, creativity and love in handmade items, and I feel this album bares those same qualities.
I find this idea, the title of their album, often enters my mind as I prepare to play worship services. “Homemade worship” hits as close to home as the thought that we are God’s creation, that we truly are “handmade people," that we were created but, in turn, get to create. With that in mind, it’s hard not to be in awe of our Creator and all I can do is praise Him. An album bursting with infectious rhythm, heartfelt lyrics, talent, passion and thought-provoking titles, I don’t see how anyone could pass this one up.
I also suggest making it to one of their performances if possible. They have just wrapped up the Rock and Worship Roadshow with MercyMe, Lecrae, Hawk Nelson, and many others, but I have a feeling it won’t be long before they’re once again coming to a city near you.