03 August 2009

jamming: Aaron Strumpel- Elephants

One Twenty One
Blow Out the Wick
Fifty One
Right Thru
In Babylon
Won't Stop
This Can't Last
First Love

I've been gumming on this album for a few weeks now. One thing I'm struck by is how once you establish "a vocabulary" for the psalter (whether by reading or hearing or re-hearing), you are really ingest it and it manifest itself very readily. Last night at church we discussed Psalm 121's Ascent question, "Where does my help come from?" Strumpel answers this question, but elaborates with texture and complexity.

The beauty and the claws for this record are in how much contrast and raw energy is presented. These are anything but straight-forward ballads. Rather we are assaulted by a dizzying array of drum loops, cello, muted trumpet, mandolin, guitars, and vocal layering. While his previous project, Enter the Worship Circle, took definite steps within and beyond the genre of acoustic folk/praise music, this album, though dissonant at times, treads pleasant new ground. It is the difference between a sketch book full of carefully crafted pencil drawings and a chaotic mixed media installation- darkness, despair, blood, dirt, noise, light, contrast, whimsy, glory.

When Strumpel wails, "Create in me a clean heart oh God..." in Fifty One amid cooing background vocals, we believe him and understand his sincere despair and hope. Take time with this bunch of songs. While pleasingly credible as a mere indie production, it is also a masterful and vulnerable worship piece.

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