November 2, 2010
Derek Webb released his new instrumental electronic worship album today, entitled Feedback. Before the album dropped, Derek wrote a bit about his intentions and thoughts behind the album. After giving it a few listens, I had a few additional thoughts, as well.
First, I think that Derek has really dialed into how to successfully price and differentiate various product tiers in order to 1.) maximize value to his customers, 2.) encourage customers to consider the upper tiers, and 3.) provide a range of options that will satisfy customers regardless of whether they prefer a physical product over a digital one, lossless audio to high-bitrate mp3, or could care less as long as they get the music immediately.
Like I said, I really, really like how Derek has priced his product tiers. Tier 1 gets you an immediate high bitrate MP3 download for $10.
For $15, Tier 2 gives you the option of getting the album in lossless format immediately, adds a physical cd, and includes 5″x5″ prints of the two companion art collections, 18 art prints in all. That’s alot of additional product for only $5 more.
Tier 3, at $30, gives you all the above, plus a t-shirt, plus digital high-resolution files of the paintings, plus multi-track stems of the album tracks for remixing, plus several video interviews and short films.
I personally chose Tier 2, but I strongly considered Tier 3.
Now, on to the music itself:
On the whole, I like Feedback. I like what Derek is trying to do, and I appreciate how different it is from the status-quo in the Christian music arena that Derek often finds himself in. However, as a person who listens to a fair amount of post-rock / electronic / ambient music, “Feedback” didn’t blow my socks off (on the first listen, at least). I’m still figuring out how each musical piece interacts with or represents its respective title, and I’m trying to see how this album will “draw me into worship.” I’m not sure yet. I certainly think that I’m going to need to give this a few spins before I make a final judgement.
This is a largely untapped sound for the Christian market. That being said, I would say that this sort of stuff is done more powerfully in non-“Christian-specific” arenas by other artists (Hammock, Sigur Rós, Balmorhea, Jesu, Max Richter, The Album Leaf, Eluvium, Helios, etc.). To be honest, I find some of that stuff quite worshipful, at times. Derek’s Feedback project is interesting, especially in how it is framed, but I wouldn’t say it is groundbreaking, as a whole.
Now, what is interesting to me is whether Derek is using Feedback as a sort of bridge for Christians to learn to appreciate and pursue the sort of expression found in this other arena and find the beauty in it, to draw Christians out of their tendency towards sub-culture. I might be overthinking this, but that’s what I’m considering right now as I pore over the music.
In the credits to Feedback, Derek thanks Mako Fujimura, which I think is really cool. Mako is one of my favorite artists; I love the way he integrates his faith into his art without distancing himself either from Christians or members of the larger arts community. He makes good art that speaks for itself, and I like that Derek is trying to channel and highlight that. I am well aware that I’m not Derek’s “standard listener;” stylistically, the breadth of the music I listen to is atypical. For some that listen to “Feedback,” it may be mind-blowing and completely out in left field. I just wish he had gone a little farther and hit a homerun.
In sum, one of the key things to acknowledge about Feedback is that is a paradigm shift from much of the “noise” of established stereotypical CCM worship music. I think it’s healthy to dispel a narrow conception of what “worship” is and take it outside of the box. I admire Derek’s art and what he’s done since becoming a solo artist; Derek has the ear of people in the world of music and art, both Christian and non-Christian, and that’s a wonderful thing. As Derek said on twitter yesterday, “there are christian and secular people who make art. there is no christian or secular art.” Let’s support good art, regardless of where it’s made.
By the way, my favorite tracks after the first few listens are 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8. What are yours?