Beatrix Players – Living & Alive: Album Review

The return of The Beatrix Players. Living & Alive is a delicacy to be savoured.

Release Date: 28th July 2023

Label: Bandcamp

Format: digital / CD / LP

A lengthy hiatus…a new expanded line up…an intriguing concept… All might explain the five years since we’ve had some Beatrix Players action.

We’ve already had the heads up from Amy Birks about an album that “explores how life isn’t just about living, but that it’s about having the courage to really be alive and own it. You are your best ‘you,’ and will only ever be second best if you’re trying to be something other than you…“ A strong identity clearly established, ten thought-provoking and beautifully crafted explore an intense fragility.

Having said that, there’s an underlying slant that relates to living up to unrealistic expectations, of compliance and the resulting feelings of frustration and anger. Not that you’d guess on initial experience, the iron fist in the velvet glove cliche slowly working its way into the consciousness on repeated listens as the penny drops.

Measured and gentle tempos abound and John Hackett’s flute proves a gossamer presence sitting alongside one of our most underrated singers – at least PROG magazine is on the case. Amy Birks dares to walk on ice as the refined atmosphere plays out. Sombre cello and contribution from piano, guitar and flute drift in, plant a tender kiss and dissipate into the ether. The atmospheric and spiritual side is emphasised in the sinking quasi-eastern swirl of You Can’t Hit A Nail. The stark expansive combination is certainly struck

This Is Your Life offers a busy alternative; the proggers might have this noted as Crimson-esque with (for the Beatrix Players) a twisting riff that’s the platform for some jazzy meanderings and where the vocal heads into the wild and wonderful while Start Again has a more pastoral feel where Trespass crosses swords with Big Big Train and a hint of Your Own Special Way. One of those pieces that defines the phrase ‘quintessentially English’.

The Kate Bush comparisons may be an easy way out with some of the phrasing and as some of the higher registers are hit but that’s no bad thing. Perhaps at their most potent where the parts are stripped back to piano and voice – the opening of both A Beautiful Life and the tiptoeing Overflow.

For a finale, the lightness of the touch that lets Free loose, builds into an aching flow of cello and an increasingly intense arrangement with a restrained dueling guitar break. Along with Me I Am Me, as bold a statement you’d get and essentially the crux of the album with the “clock ticking inside me” the seal is set on an album that’s packed with a reflective and hold your breath quality.

Here’s the quite sublime album preview, Snowflakes:

Beatrix Players online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Soundcloud / bandcamp

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