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Striking musical gold

MUSIC | A Christian-music underground flourishes online


Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Striking musical gold
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As long as there has been Jesus Rock or Contemporary Christian Music, there has been a Christian-music underground populated by square pegs ill-suited to the industry’s round holes. Now, thanks to Bandcamp, keeping tabs on them is easier than ever.

Here’s how it works. Go to bandcamp.com and scroll down to “Discover.” In the first search-­filtering row, select “devotional” (you may need to click a greater-than sign to see it). Then, from the options that appear beneath, choose “christian” [sic] or “gospel.” In the rows beneath those, choose “new arrivals” and “any format.”

A menu of albums by acts that you’ve never heard of will appear, albums that you can listen to in their entirety before deciding to buy or to pass. Often, you’ll pass. And, algorithms being algorithms, what pops up isn’t always Christian or gospel. But most of it is. And sometimes you’ll strike gold.

Recent cases in point: 88 Black & White Keys by Mister Andy, Fill Your House With Love by Amy Rasmussen, and The Calling by Siham I AM—each attention-getting, each affordable, each unique.

Mister Andy is the retired NASA computer engineer Phillip Andrew Newman, and as you might infer from its title, his album is a solo-­piano excursion. Close enough for classical when not close enough for jazz, Newman’s precise, percussive touch delineates inventive melodies unflagging in their verve. “The Lord Never Sleeps” is the apotheosis, but it has competition. The cost: $7—or about the price of LPs when Newman got his composition degree from the Berklee College of Music 38 years ago.

Rasmussen’s album is 38 minutes of soft pop for piano and lithe, girlish voice that breaks 1 Corinthians 13 into 11 songs, most of whose titles begin “Love Is ... .” Unburdened by major-­label overproduction, the music, like the colloquially paraphrased lyrics, has an appealingly breezy, almost capricious, simplicity. “Holy Joy (Love Rejoices in Good),” with its Vanessa Carlton–like melody, and “Love Is Merciful” would be picks to click if picks clicked anymore. The cost: “Name your price.”

You can also “name your price” to nab Siham I AM’s The Calling. “No one in their right mind would believe the 10-year journey leading up to this,” read the liner notes, “but it’s fine, coz now we look like creative geniuses.” They’re joking but not really. Amid oodles of playfully kaleidoscopic electronica, heavily processed and multitracked female vocals articulate the joys and struggles of being in the world but not of it. “Clever” doesn’t even begin to describe the wordplay. And if you think it reads well (just click “lyrics” next to each track), wait until you hear how it all sounds.


Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.

@ArsenioOrteza

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