When head psalter Scott Krueger describes his band as a religious vocation, you'd do well to take him seriously. He means it. Krueger has set a lofty goal for himself, aiming to create psalms for the current age, a goal he aims to meet accompanied by a wildly eclectic group of like-minded musicians. The psalters begin with elements of mid-eastern and Indian music and blend those elements with strong tribal percussion and a healthy indie rock sensibility. Beyond this already broad spectrum, one track ("I'm Free") shows a strong connection to the Negro spiritual traditions of
Perhaps the single largest compliment which can be paid to this group of musicians is that the fusion works. What could have easily become a fragmented and splintered work instead ties together beautifully with each of the component parts complementing the other's strengths. The projects flows smoothly and easily from beginning to end with just enough of the foreign to be something fresh and new and just enough of the domestic to keep the whole brew understandable to western ears.
The key to the whole project, of course, is the writing - the actual Psalms. Krueger holds to the Psalm format on all cuts but one (the slightly over-polemical "Fattened Frothing Swine") and shows a firm grip on the genre. Krueger explores both despair and ecstasy, with a strong desire for the presence of God throughout. Also making itself felt is his attraction to the Christian mystical traditions, notably the work of Julian of Norwich. The power here is most often in its simplicity. The simple cry of "Free me. Keep me. Teach me. Teach me ... You." (Brux in a Box) carries the full weight of a soul in yearning. Likewise, the declaration that "Baal our god will fall away / Whose name is lust, adultery / Mammon god will fall away / whose name is riches, luxury / Beelzebul will fall away / Whose name is sin, slavery / Heaven and earth will pass away / But You live on!" (El.) draws on the continuing power of hope for regeneration.
Krueger has room to grow as both a writer and singer, but as he stands he has produced one of the most startlingly original pieces of art to appear in quite some time. Add to that the beautiful packaging job and this becomes a virtual must-have for fans of experimental music.