I recently* received two review CDs that are modern takes on religion. First, Phil Kline's John the Revelator. This Mass in both English and Latin is performed by the vocal group Lionheart and the string quartet Ethel. Some of the movements sound very traditional, chant in polyphony or monophony such as the opening "Northport", and some are very modern, with pop-tinged beats, minimalist ostinatos in "The Man Who Knows Misery", crunchy dissonances like "The Snow Fell", explorations of George Crumb-like timbres in "Dark Was the Night" or jazzy extended harmonies in "The Unnamable" and "Sanctus". I'm ashamed to admit that one section of "The Unnamable" sounds to me like the Oompa Loompas singing in the newer Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. The male voices in octaves, with mid-Eastern pop accompaniment, just reminds me of one of the musical productions with little red men. This is a fairly eclectic work, like a less-extreme version of Golijov. I think Kline strikes a good balance of contemporary and contemplative, and the performances are great.
The second CD is D'Arc: Woman on Fire, a music theater piece by Jay Cloidt and Amanda Moody. Based on the life of martyred Joan of Arc, this is much more like the brashness of Golijov's Ayre cycle, with 14th century hymns sitting next to electronica, indy pop sounds, solo cello (featuring ex-Kronos Quartet member Joan Jeanrenaud), and lots of recorded sounds mixed in. The vocals by Amanday Moody are more pop-ish than Dawn Upshaw's performance in Ayre, raw and focused more on the drama than the beauty of sound. The whole D'Arc recording production seems to lack some aural depth, making it feel a little amateurish despite the interesting compositions and good performances. The religious music isn't as spiritually intense or authentic as Kline's work, but still interesting.
*Recently by my standards, rather long ago for the Kline CD by blogging standards.