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Album Review: The Maker & The Instrument

Album Review: The Maker & The Instrument

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God speaks to His creation in any number of ways. He whispers calm to our hearts; He speaks love through the words of others; He paints reassurance across the sky in rainbows that reflect His endless creativity. 

Given that we are crafted in His image, it only makes sense that we respond to Him in more ways than one. The Maker and The Instrument allows the listener to do just that. Comprised of well-known worship songs, predominantly penned by Chris Tomlin, this album captures the essence of God’s grace, forgiveness, and provision; and does so without a single word.

Intended to draw the listener to a deeper, more contemplative state of communion with the Savior, each of the ten instrumental tracks reflects the message of Psalm 150:3-4. “Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; praise Him with the psaltery and harp. Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and organ.” 

The album opens with a piano-driven version of “Good, Good Father” that gently draws in the listener with a simple, but rich treatment of the beautiful anthem. When the acoustic guitars join in, they infuse slightly elevated energy into the song. The remainder of the track vacillates from spare instrumentation to a more full, robust sound, culminating in a sweeping ending chorus. 

As the album transitions into “What a Beautiful Name,” driven by acoustic guitars and more ambient production, the listener is given a rare gift—space. With strategic moments of restraint, retard, and decrescendos, the production gives the worshipper an opportunity to hear more than music. It allows them to hear their own thoughts, or to listen for the still, small voice of God. 

The album progresses in a similar fashion, filled with emotionally-charged soundscapes that take on the air of a cinematic soundtrack. The treatment of each familiar song breathes new life into it, allowing the messages to penetrate in new ways without sacrificing a message or becoming weighed down with expectation. 

Many church-goers and worshippers, even if they don’t realize it, have clear ideas of how certain songs should be sung. They are accustomed to hearing certain words emphasized or drawn out. They have grown used to hearing the song in a certain key, with one particular singer. 

The elimination of the vocals on most of the tracks presents the song in a brand new way. The message is fresh, the delivery more effective, and the song is now a multi-purpose tool of God’s message of love and salvation. 

“Even So Come,” “This is Our God + Obsession,” and “Well Fall Down + Agnus Dei” stray from the purely instrumental template decisively and effectively. With vocals used sparingly on the refrains and latter choruses of these songs, the message suddenly comes into crystal-clear focus with the already-captivated listener.

To hear Chris Tomlin suddenly sing out the refrain, “We wait for you,” on “Even So Come” is unexpected, yet entirely fitting. The same vocal device is used to even greater effect on “This Is Our God/Obsession” medley with Fleurie delivering the ethereal line, “And my heart burns for you.” Finally, Tomlin’s vocals make a final appearance on the “We Fall Down/Agnus Dei” medley. Joined by a choir on the triumphant chorus, “You are holy,” the song is a standout in terms of mood, and may be less effective than some of the other tracks. However, the spoken declaration of the nature of God is akin to an anchor. It solidifies the purpose and direction of this, mostly, worship without words experience. 

Overall, The Maker and The Instrument is a bold choice. With songs that have been primarily hailed as accessible and, intentionally, easy to learn, the production unveils hidden complexities and nuances that may have been previously masked by words and voices. 

This project could easily become an essential component to a daily quiet time or other personal worship time or be used in a corporate setting, inviting congregants to hear something new.

More than anything, The Maker and the Instrument embraces a pivotal component of worship that is often overlooked—silence. Without lyrics to distract or focus on, one can commune in silent prayer without interruption. Even more, in the ambient spaces and instrumental ebbs and flows, one can easily engage with one of the most basic, yet elusive components of faith—listening for and responding to the voice of God—be it a mighty roar or a still, small whisper. 

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