Album Review :
Rend Collective Experiment - Campfire

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Artist: Rend Collective Experiment
Title: Campfire
Label: Integrity Music
Release Date: 1/29/13
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre


  1. Kumbaya
  2. Come On My Soul
  3. Desert Soul
  4. Build Your Kingdom Here
  5. Movements
  6. You are My Vision
  7. You Bled
  8. The Cost
  9. Alabaster
  10. Second Chance
  11. 10,000 Reasons
  12. Praise Like Fireworks

Irish band Rend Collective Experiment have breathed great new life into the British industry with their ingenious and intuitive albums Homemade Worship for Handmade People and Organic Family Hymnal, from their ballads like ‘Second Chance’, ‘You Bled’ and ‘The Cost’, to upbeat anthems ‘Praise Like Fireworks’, ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’ and ‘Movements’. Now starting off the new year of 2013 with a live acoustic album Campfire, recorded independently and with a congregation during a campfire worship session; this Irish folk-worship band has given us a great acoustic album full of fan favourites from their previous two albums, as well as a great rendition of Matt Redman’s ’10,000 Reasons’. Though not as popular in America as they are in Great Britain, Rend Collective Experiment’s awe-inspiring approach to music, collectiveness, family and worship is enthusiastically expressed through their songs. As lead singer Garth Gilkeson explains it, ‘…there are no outsiders in the Kingdom. That’s part of why we chose to record around the campfire. Worship is not exclusive or confined within the walls of a church…’ With just an acoustic guitar, light percussion, and a great chorus of worshippers throughout each track, what results from just very few instruments is one of the best acoustic albums ever produced. Full of soul, passion and emotive spirit, these 12 melodies are able to stir up a worshipper spirit as I reflect upon the community of the album, and how the album was recorded on Ballyholme beach, Northern Ireland. From the acoustic guitar plucking that starts up ‘Movements’ to the introduction of Audrey Assad to accompany the band to sing ’10,000 Reasons’; Campfire is a worship experience that is certain to become one of my favourite albums in January and the entire year as well!

Though 7 out of the 12 tracks are from Homemade Worship By Handmade People; it is the three songs from Organic Family Hymnal (‘Movements’, ‘Come On My Soul’ and ‘You Bled’); as well as the campfire melody ‘Kumbaya’ and Matt Redman’s classic anthem ’10,000 Reasons’ that have highlighted the album for me. Classified as a Black parlson spiritual song, ‘Kumbaya’ was written during the 1930s but it wasn’t until the 1960s when it became prominent in its singing around campfires, with the word ‘kumbaya’s literal translation, meaning ‘come by here’. With Rend Collective Experiment starting with this simple 30 second melody, declaring out ‘…kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya…’, we are reminded that worship is a community experience, and as we ask the Lord to draw near to us during our moments of worship, we have a sense of gratitude and thankfulness, acknowledging His nearness in times of both triumph and tragedy. ‘Come On My Soul’ leads on from ‘Kumbaya’ as a repeated refrain with hand claps and a passionate vocal from Chris Llewellyn, as he cries out ‘…come on, my soul, let down the walls, and sing my soul…’ Asking God to come invade and break down the walls that need to be shattered; this 3 minute acoustic melody, while it doesn’t have many lines or stanzas, reveals a humble heart as the band invites Jesus to come and commune with them in worship. Another song on Organic Family Hymnal, ‘Movements’ starts off with a light acoustic guitar plucking reminiscent of Caribbean or beach music, with lead singer Chris Llewellyn declaring that where Christ is, we are also. With a soaring choir that creates a great ‘woah’ moment at periodic times during the song, ‘Movements’ gives us a reminder of how ‘…the song is about commitment and reminds us to move closer to God no matter what happens in our lives. We can think of commitment as sobering, but it is also freeing…’ With a jovial atmosphere and a joyous enthusiasm that is represented in the song, it is the love from Christ to us that compels us to move in sync with Him. The acoustic rendition of an already great song is my favourite recording of one of my favourite Rend Collective songs ever!

‘You Bled’ also gives us a sobering account about Jesus’s death and resurrection, and doesn’t really stray that far from the original in terms of musical arrangements (except with acoustics rather than electric guitars and brass instruments). The addition of the hymn ‘How Marvellous’ and an added line or two referencing to ‘Jesus Loves Me’ that are both incorporated into the melody is very pleasing, and gives a modern twist on hymns set to a more contemporary musical setting. Acoustically, the crowd and the lighter musical instruments leaves a great focus upon the lyrics and the poignancy of God’s decision made for mankind. Yet it is ’10,000 Reasons’, a Matt Redman cover; that truly highlights worship at its best. With folk-worship singer Audrey Assad lending her vocals to his modern anthemic classic, we are reminded of how Christ’s sacrifice is enough to continuously give praise and glory to God. We have many things to give thanks to God for, and eternal salvation alone leads to nothing less than reverence, awe and worship. The light acoustics draw in the listener as we listen to an anthem that has circled the globe since its release in 2011, moving from acoustic guitars to accordions and choruses of backing vocals. One of the most poetic and emotional worship songs written of late, Rend Collective Experiment will certainly be one of many artists in years to come to cover this amazing anthem. Well done guys for such an uplifting song of exaltation.

Rend Collective Experiment has given us a great album in Homemade Worship by Handmade People from the beginning of 2012, and it is the popular hits of ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’, ‘Desert Soul’, ‘Praise Like Fireworks’ and first single ‘Second Chance’ that really translate well into the acoustical arrangement on Campfire. The feet-stomping and hand claps on ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’ is a great community spirit translated into unique musical elements as collectively we all cry out to God for Him to build His kingdom in our hearts and of those around us. ‘Desert Soul’ wasn’t a song that I paid much attention on when I was first listening to their 2012 album, but as I listen to this stirring version with the band creating an emotional crowd-like gang vocal to enter the song into a moment of honest surrender; we are reminded of the urgency of our relationship with Christ, and how if we leave it untouched for a season, it may become like desert. Out of our love for Him, we can’t help but cultivate our relationship, and this song is testament to the truth that if we are without God, our lives will be desert ridden and without the life that Christ gives.

‘Praise Like Fireworks’ is a great ending song as the acoustic guitars and the collective worshippers sing out God’s praise, proclaiming that ‘…You’ve given us a heart, You’ve given us a home with You…’; and ‘Second Chance’ is as great as it has always been, starting off with an Asian-inspired string instrument as Chris cries out the chorus, and how ‘…oh Your cross is where my hope restarts, a second chance is heaven’s heart…’ The choir in the song is one of the highlights as the thundering bass line underlays a song that reminds us of the encouragement of both the cross and the empty grave. Rend Collective Experiment also add in the contemporary version of ‘Be Thou My Vision’, replacing the ‘be thous’ with ‘you are’; reminding listeners that ‘…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’…’; and is also one of the songs that gives me great joy, with Rend Collective’s version of the song my favourite rendition of this timeless hymn classic. Well done Rend Collective for these poignant melodies and some of my favourite songs from Homemade Worship by Handmade People.

Overall: With one of the most ingenious album covers of 2013 (with the band as well as the other vocal contributors to the album to remind listeners that worship and music is more collective rather than an individualistic moment); Campfire gives us a sense of collectiveness, both in worship and community, but also connecting with the songs as we hear some of the most poignant and relatable worship music in 2013. Alongside Meredith Andrews’s Worth It All and Hearts of Saints For All of Us, Campfire ranks in at No. 3 as my favourite album of the year, creating a great platform for albums to rise to in months to come. From the emotional ‘The Cost’ that speaks of the boldness of following Christ no matter the cost, to one of my favourite hymns of all time; this is an album especially for those who love great modern alternate worship music, along the same musical lines of David Crowder, Bellarive, Leeland and The Digital Age. Alongside Bluetree and Delirious?; this is another band from the U.K. area where their influence has gone global. With more exposure in the U.S.; this is a band that will continue to reignite the passion of worship with their unique and different aspect on worship and how it can be delivered to listeners. With not such a wide array of instruments, Campfire does what many albums may fail to deliver with auto-tune and a studio- with an open atmosphere in front of the beach, a sense of realness and authenticity is created that will intrigue listeners to hear the songs from this amazing band. Well done guys for such a motivating and uplifting album!

RIYL: David Crowder*Band, Bellarive, Leeland, Delirious?

Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3