Bethel Music

The Loft Sessions

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Echoing the intimate surroundings of fellow Christian worship outfit Hillsong's recent Chapel album, The Loft Sessions sees the California-based Bethel Music stable decamp to a refurbished, rustic loft on ten warm acoustic tracks intended for smaller congregations. It's a clever approach which allows the church's spiritual messages to take center stage while also showcasing a new, organic sound which veers more toward the contemporary nu-folk scene than their usual soft rock fare. None more so than on worship leader Brian Johnson's opener "One Thing Remains," which is transformed from the rousing Snow Patrol-esque epic that appeared on 2010's Be Lifted High into a soothing and reflective stripped-back ballad, and the shuffling banjo-led "You Have Won Me," which draws comparisons with several of the young troubadours currently dominating the U.K. folk scene. Elsewhere, newcomers Hunter Thompson and Steffany Frizzell equip themselves well on the delightfully twinkling "My Dear" and the orchestral melancholy of "You Know Me," as does Matt Stinton on the anthemic chants and handclap percussion of "This Is What You Do;" Jeremy Riddle makes a convincing and surprising foray into prog territory with the spacy synths, operatic vocals, and burst of post-rock on "Walk in the Promise" (one of two reworkings of tracks from his solo Furious debut); while Jenn Johnson produces the most radio-friendly offering on the slow-building AOR of "Come to Me." The trio of tasteful but ultimately bland ballads ("Angels," "Fall Afresh," "Draw Near") which appear toward the end slightly flatten the mood, but overall, The Loft Sessions is an engaging affair which should give their Australian counterparts a run for their money.

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