An encouraging start to a new series of wordless worship songs.

Label: Integrity Music
Time: 16 tracks / 55 mins.

What do you do with wordless versions of worship songs? Some people feel that they are more spiritual than your average instrumental, while others might say that if you’re going to play a worship song straight, you might as well put the words in.

That is why, when our church has a prayer evening, I have favoured more ambient instrumentals from such brilliant musicians as Phil Keaggy and Jeff Johnson. Tracks that play well-known worship songs straight put those words back in my head, distracting enormously from the prayer I am trying to frame.

So I have been pleased with this album – the first of a series of such instrumental worship releases – because it knows how to hint more about the songs. The band majors on chords and arpeggios and only nods towards melody lines. There are even three brief strings-led interludes to break up the standard tracks.

Of course, how familiar you are with the songs will make a difference, and they range from classics like “I Could Sing of your Love Forever” and “I Exalt Thee” to newer pieces like the McMillans’ “King of my Heart” (where the strings add some stirring fills) and Matt Redman’s “Lord Let Your Glory Fall.”

Rather than play at an ambient pace, Rivers and Robots have chosen to play the tunes at a fairly normal speed, but with a more spacious approach. For example, “Majesty” (the Delirious? one) is played by a resonant piano with just a cello playing the melody. The sequencing impressed me, as the piano of “Boldly I Approach,” which comes straight afterwards, could almost fit inside “Majesty,” so good a blend are these tunes in this version.

And if you just want some background, this works well, too.

Derek Walker