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Published: Saturday, 6/25/2005

EP conveys lifestyle with deep spiritual message

With an array of deep, pulsating bass beats and streams of electronic textures and tones, Andy Hunter's new EP on the EMI label, "Life," bursts with energetic, ambient dance music. But unlike the usual club mixes created by dancehall DJs, Mr. Hunter's music conveys a deeply spiritual message.

"It's not about a style of music. It's about a lifestyle," says the mixmaster from Leicester, England. "To me, it's about a love relationship with Jesus."

While clubbing and Christianity may be a controversial mix in some conservative American churches, Mr. Hunter says the two scenes are very compatible across the pond.

"There's a lot less separation between church and the mainstream in the U.K.," he explains in a press kit accompanying "Life." "It's a lot more accepted in the church."

The EP (for "Extended Play," indicating it has less than the 10 or 12 tunes typically found on a CD) thumps with a rhythmic power that is almost irresistible.

But instead of the coy or suggestive vocals heard in many dance tracks, Mr. Hunter and his guest singers offer words that reflect a religious point of view even when they are not overtly Christian.

"Whenever your light shines, I can always find something more of life," go the lyrics to the song "Lifeflight." "Whenever you break through, take me somewhere new, deeper into you."

Such intentional ambiguity, rather than sermonizing, works well for this style of music that seeks to build bridges, rather than put up walls, among religious and nonreligious music fans.

My favorite track on the disc is "Open My Eyes," a scintillating and shifting number that creates counterpoints between sturdy repetitive keyboard phrases and electronic leads that alternately rise and fall in a catchy contrast.

On "Open My Eyes," as on most of Mr. Hunter's tunes, the music dominates and words are easily overlooked or ignored. After half a dozen spins, I still did not realize the meaning of the lyrics until I read Mr. Hunter's explanation.

"This track is where I am saying to God: 'I want to see, feel, experience what your senses experience when you look at the wastelands of our lives and of the countries that we live in.' Then I want to turn that knowledge into prayer for God to breathe his life into those areas."

Sounds like there's some real depth for those who want to dig deep. But no matter how much or how little one reads into the lyrics, "Life" offers six sweepingly powerful electronic songs with an uplifting feeling to them.

And you can dance to it (if your denomination says it's OK).

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So you thought Larry the Cucumber was a one-dimensional couch potato? Hardly! The star of VeggieTales' computer-generated animated cartoon series now has an alter ego, Minnesota Cuke, an Indiana Jones-style action star who makes his debut in the video, VeggieTales: Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson's Hair Brush, released today on DVD and video.

The adventure story adds another entertaining chapter to the high-quality Christian cartoon series that kids love so much that more than 40 million VeggieTales videos have been sold since debuting in 1993.

In this episode, Minnesota Cuke foils a plot by fiendish Canadians (Canadians as the bad guys, eh?) who think that Samson's hair brush will give them power to control Niagara Falls.

The story focuses on the theme of patience, inspired by the Scripture found in Matthew 5:44. Adding to the appeal of this uplifting 45-minute video is the Minnesota Cuke theme song, written and performed by country star Charlie Daniels.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com or

419-724-6154.



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