|Parachute Band - Matins Vespers|
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Reviewed by Jamie Maxwell
Parachute Band's latest album is a double disc package and the New Zealand-based stadium rock worshippers have unexpectedly created a concept album based on, of all things, traditional monastic prayers. The first disc, 'Matins', is named after the morning prayers and is the more upbeat of the two. The quote on the cover sets the tone with the words: "The dawn's declaration of the promises of God, a reminder of all that is yes and amen". The opening song is a strong one, with a powerful melody and crisp vocals. "Keep The Fire Burning" is probably the most conventional worship song, and is also a highlight. The second disc, Vespers, named after the more reflective night time prayers, is entirely instrumental. It is more atmospheric than the first disc, with sweeping synths and orchestral sounds which could easily be used as background music for a prayer time. "Promises" is probably the standout track on this disc: its piano led melody is a thing of beauty. This is certainly a brave move for the band, and one has to admire their daring in producing something that is very different from the increasingly stereotyped sound of much modern worship.
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|Sometimes you've got to look back to move ahead.|
From the early days of the church, worship has been tied closely to the rhythms of nature. Songs of devotion were written to coincide with the seasons; laments accompanied the cold winters, celebrations followed the rising of the first summer sun.
From the initial pulsing swells of Hope is a River to the warm electric wash of Simmer, it's clear that there's a thread of that grand old tradition weaved throughout Matins:Vespers, Parachute Band's most ambitious and cohesive effort yet.
A double album, Matins:Vespers combines the exciting exploration of the band's sound with a nod to the ancient rhythms of worship. The album's name references the concept; a modern twist on the old canonical offices.
Matins, the first disc, presents a modern spin on the orthodox practice of the "morning songs" - the litanies that accompanied the rising of the day. Keep the Fire Burning sets the pace, a strident and rhythmic reminder of the glowing embers within.
Promises dawns with a quiet assurance; "I have decided I believe it, the clouds cannot defeat the sun. The truth remains, your words won"t fail, so I rise again believing every one", before giving way to a soaring proclamation delivered over angular synths and simmering cymbal clashes.
A song like In Jesus channels a kind of modern-day liturgy; the statements "We are in love, we are in freedom, we"re in hope, for we are in Jesus" revolving and building to an insistent anthem.
Alongside the strength of the theme, the seven tracks on Matins boast some of the band's most exciting musical evolution yet. Fearless electronic ambition is treated with polished production; from the crisp synths and anthemic strains of The City of the Lord to the Bon Iver-esque auto-tuned harmonies lying below the surface of Run to You. The band have come to the fore, delivering a volley of strong songs that sound fresh and assured, the sound of an outfit committed to constant reinvention.
Vespers, the second disc, signals a bold new move for the band. As with Matins, Vespers pays tribute to the practice of "evening prayers"; the spacious, quiet reflections accompanying the close of the day. Consisting of seven sprawling, wordless atmospheres, Vespers presents a canvas for devotion, from the Sigur Ros-like strains of Hark to the synthetic nature-scape Rallentando, a track that channels ambient sound artist James Blake.
There's something about Matins:Vespers that infers a journey, something that harks back to the call and response of the seasons. This is Parachute Band at their most mature and self-assured, dedicated to redefining worship for their generation, looking back to ancient paths to forge a bold way forward.