by Sam Robinson
In a couple of weeks, Seattle ten-piece Kings Kaleidoscope will drop their debut album.
That is no simple statement, in fact it’s been in the pipeline for years. After forming in 2010 and releasing a number of EPs through Mars Hill Music and an independent live EP earlier this year, lead singer Chad Gardner and his band of merry men and women are finally dropping the album they’ve always dreamed of making. Becoming Who We Are is a fitting title for an album of a sound that only Kings K could create, and my words below will struggle to do it justice. This is truly a very special record.
Kings Kaleidoscope became an independent band at the beginning of this year (now signed to Tooth & Nail) and Becoming Who We Are was recorded on a shoestring budget at various locations around Seattle and produced by Chad himself. While these factors may be seen as limitations, it has actually benefited the sound of the album – it’s not overproduced, it’s brash and raw (musically and lyrically), and flows seamlessly from track to track like one big movement.
We’re eased into the record with Glorious, a joyful song of praise that sets the scene that this album will be focussed on Jesus. Seek Your Kingdom follows with a much fuller arrangement than the one that featured on Live in Color earlier this year. There’s some amazing drum fills and a real choral sound, and it hasn’t lost any of the edge heard on the first draft.
Lead single I Know paints a glorious picture of what it will be like to dance and sing and bow before the throne of God, and it makes me long for that day. The arrangement complements the message in a big way with booming sub-bass, stomping and clapping, and a massive choir on the bridge – it’s one big party.
Bloom is the first interlude on the album, filled with bleeps and rhythm but transports us into the wild jam of Felix Culpa. It’s such an inventive track, fusing hip-hop, jazz, and rock, and shifting stylistically. It speaks of the incredible truth of God’s grace and our sins forgiven, despite the frustration of still wrestling with our sin.
Ache is a short piece with dreamy looping sounds and autotune (!) which flows into an outstanding re-working of hymn All Creatures. The arrangement is super fun, opening with jungle sounds and a glockenspiel that would fit on a Crash Bandicoot video game. This is such a song of praise lyrically and the sound is so, so, so bright. It builds and builds and really leaves you with no choice but to dance.
Smooth vibes of summer filter through on Dreams, a beautiful sound that masterfully matches the lyrics: ‘I see you. In sunlight. The colours of your world echo in my dreams.’ I just love the groove and percussion on this track. And we’re still only nine songs in (of seventeen). Amazing.
139 reflects on God’s loving character throughout time and his care for us as seen in Psalm 139. As the beat plods along, we’re reminded that we could run away and hide but God is still with us: ‘You are the God who knows and loves me. The God of David, the Rock of Ages. You are the King who dwells above me. The King of Zion, the mighty lion’. The infectious grooves continue on Redemption in Motion, where an autotuned Chad sings of God’s massive achievement at the cross – that Jesus died and rose again and set redemption in motion.
There’s quite a shift in sound on Zion – a very personal, raw, stripped-back track about Chad’s son Zion who died earlier this year in the womb. It’s a very live feel, featuring Chad, some guitars and some gorgeous harmonies. ‘Zion, I’m coming soon to where you are.’ It’s heart-wrenching, but extremely hopeful as Chad once again looks to eternity, and entrusts his son into God’s care.
The hope of the cross and the purpose in suffering is brought to light on Light After Darkness amongst cinematic strings and loops and glitches. It’s a song of surrender: ‘Give me the hope of tomorrow, give me the strength for today. You are the promise of peace on my pathway to faith.’
The final three tracks on Becoming Who We Are hit hard. Fix My Eyes features really cool atmospheric bass and a real 80s vibe which contribute to a very full sound. How Deep follows the melody of How Deep the Father’s Love For Us but grows dynamically with a real orchestral and brassy punch. It contains possibly the biggest build of the album. Defender is a blistering end to the album, and the rollicking rhythms are huge on this recording. It’s such a joyful song of praise that focusses on the servant nature of Jesus as he rescues us. ‘Who is a rock but our God? Whose blood has sealed our freedom? Jesus! Our Saviour! Defender! Redeemer!’
Look, I’ll be real with you. I couldn’t have higher praise for this album. Musically, it makes my heart dance and lyrically it fixes my eyes on Jesus, the cross, and the hope of the reality of eternal life that is bigger than the pain and anxiety we experience in this fallen and broken world. It’s an achievement that Chad and the band should be proud of. Pre-order this now. I mean it. I’m giving Becoming Who We Are a full five stars.