Our days are filled with small changes that collectively represent the ebb and flow of all of creation. There are also days struck with foundational shifts—health and sickness, life and death, joy and sorrow. Through the hurricanes and beside the still waters there is only one constant, and Tides is a declaration and celebration of the One who remains.
Electro-pop, ’80s synth throwback, electric drums, and most of all completely studio-recorded, Tides is no Loft Sessions. If you are not already familiar, Bethel Music is the worship ministry of Redding, California-based Bethel Church led by senior worship pastors Brian and Jenn Johnson. Tides also features worship leaders Jeremy Riddle, Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger, William Matthews, Matt Stinton, Hunter Thompson and the work of over 50 people involved in the Bethel worship team.
Whereas live worship recordings tend to naturally fall into worship-appropriate tones (or at least worship-familiar tones), studio offerings can get a bit tricky. That said, the Bethel team seemed to carefully consider every aspect—prayer through production. Almost without flaw, the music marries the tone of the lyric perfectly. Take for instance the dreamy, lullaby-like “Letting Go,” where the electronic loops, soundscapes, and Brit-pop ethereal ambiance don’t just surround the lyrics, they become the way we pray. And in this case, the prayer is one of the most honest and profound moments on the release: “Just when my hallelujah was tired, you gave me a new song: I’m letting go, falling into you.” Another standout production blend is the spiritual song and even spontaneous-sounding Jeremy Riddle track, “Heaven’s Song” where redemption and the life of Christ is celebrated in a wandering and grand musical scale. The team missed this perfect blend of production and prayer a couple of times, most notably on the two most-radio-friendly tunes: “Chasing You” (featuring Jenn Johnson) and “Breaking Through” (featuring Jeremy Riddle). Though obviously intentional, the wash of sound and the pristine production overwhelms the heart of each song.
Overall, the artistry of Tides is outstanding. Yet the original problem remains: this is no The Loft Sessions. The studio hides a bit of what sets Bethel Music apart: their organic, passionate prayers that translate so beautifully in a live recording. In a genre where such successful translations are scarce, Bethel set aside something that also sets them apart. Yet that problem is also a strength. Bethel welcomes creativity and musical growth, and Tides is a perfect example. More importantly, this fresh expression is revealed in the prayer poetry filling each song. Throughout Tides, God’s “reckless love” (“Forever”) is praised, and though his world is filled with the ebb and flow of life, he is strong in us—his promises will not fail.
More: Studio produced album of outstanding congregational music from one of the most influential teams in the worship genre.
Less: The production will alienate followers that are looking for the more rootsy organic approach to Bethel’s other offerings.