Jonathan Ogden is the frontman/original member of experimental worship act Rivers & Robots. I’ve covered their latest album here (which I definitely suggest checking out, as this is NOT a standard worship album).
Apart from from Rivers & Robots, Ogden has been writing EPs as part of a project he’s titled “Seasons”. Three of these EPs were released over 2017, and “Autumn” sees the project come to a conclusion. In some ways, it feels remiss to review this EP apart from its predecessors (and perhaps I’ll go through and review the others), but, much like Thrice and the Alchemy Index, each EP is intended to showcase a different style.
On “Autumn”, it’s evident the focus is on an R&B sound. Maybe I haven’t explored R&B well enough, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard worship done in this genre before.
Even though it’s mid-winter, I definitely think Ogden has created an album that can take listeners back a few months. Maybe it’s due to the fact I’m reviewing this at a coffee shop, with notions of pumpkin spice dancing in my mind (though it IS snowing a bit).
Unsurprisingly, the EP is heavily piano-based. Bass and percussion aren’t lacking either, and many of the instrumental bits, like Clouds, would work as hip-hop beats. Psalm 27 pulls from Scripture for its lyrical basis, pairing in the aforementioned classic R&B efforts. Ogden manages to work the text into compelling vocal rhythms, which in itself is noteworthy. Remind Me is a fairly similar to its predecessor, and Falling Leaves is another instrumental.
Anchor caps off the EP. It’s a smooth track that, to some unfortunate degree, reminds me a bit of Twenty One Pilots. The focus here is definitely on the percusion, but piano does make its way at parts.
Overall, “Autumn” doesn’t compare to Ogden’s work with Rivers & Robots. It’s not as sloppy as it is stale. It’s great artists are willing to experiment and break from their usual styles – but with two of five tracks being instrumental and the others sounds pretty comparable, it’s easy to lose interest. The 21 minutes of the EP seem to drag out, but there isn’t any surprising pocket of energy to revitalize the listening experience. The novelty is intriguing for the first few songs, but novelty alone isn’t enough to redeem things.
It should be said Ogden knows what he’s doing. He’s great at playing instruments and his vocals are definitely not lacking. It was a risk to take worship into this realm. However, this definitely isn’t his specialty. Or, perhaps the intent was for a relaxed, non-invasive soundtrack. Either way, the experience is lacking.
Ultimately, “Autumn” is a nice experiment and it does make me wonder if there’s room for growth in mixing R&B and worship together. Unfortunately, the five songs don’t leave a strong lasting impression. Thankfully, this is an isolated work and we can still look forward to future releases from Ogden and Rivers & Robots.