Sunday 14 November 2021

'Live From The Church' by Julia Biel

In February 2020 - mere weeks before the world would subsequently be turned upside down - Julia Biel released 'Black and White' (Volume 1), her fourth album which saw her music presented within a more stripped down and intimate setting pairing her unmistakable vocal with the black and white keys of a piano over the course of eleven songs.

Although 'Black and White' was clearly the first of a planned series of acoustic-based releases, what Biel herself may not have realised at the time was just how much this stripped-down arrangement would become a staple of her music going forward.

Since March 2020, the world has had to evolve and adapt to these new and extraordinary circumstances where face masks, social distancing, excessive amounts of hand sanitizer, home schooling and Zoom-based interactions have become our new "normal".  And while the past year has certainly impacted everyone, the impact on the music industry and independent artists and musicians has been particularly difficult to see unfolding.  Conversely, this can also be seen as a challenge that many have risen to - the need to continually create, even in less-than-inspirational circumstances, has led to some wonderful and inspired ideas and projects... and frankly these are circumstances that Julia Biel has excelled within.

The subsequent extension of 'Black and White' could be regarded as a near two-year project which saw Biel - with piano keys at the ready - maintain her relationship with devoted listeners through her Hang-Time-At-Home series.  With weekly live performances carried out through Facebook, Julia's wonderful setlists comprised a exciting array of songs from her own catalogue along with some beautiful renditions of classic tracks including a heartrending, yet heavenly, take on 'Mad World' by Tears For Fears.

'Live From The Church', recorded in Brighton's Unitarian Church this year, boasts six beautifully-performed songs plucked mostly from Biel's impeccable catalogue including 'Shhh...' ('Not Alone', 2005) along with 'The Wilderness' and 'Something Beautiful' ('Julia Biel', 2018).  An inspired rendition of 'The Creator Has A Master Plan' by the revered Pharoah Sanders kicks the project off perfectly: "The creator has a working plan; Peace and happiness for every man" - certainly poignant words in light of global events that have unfolded over the last two years.

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Emre Ramazanoglu, 'Live From The Church' is envisioned as a complete audio-visual experience with an accompanying video of the complete performance also available to stream and download, reverently put together by Lisa Wormsley.

New music from Julia Biel always has a way of rendering words somewhat useless.  Other than to pass on the news that another of her exquisite projects is currently awaiting your attention, there's very little that I, or anyone for that matter, could come up with to capture the beauty that gleams from her voice when she sings or when her fingers grace the piano keys.  While quarantine life has led to some life-changing and desolate moments for many, there is still joy to be found in these little moments of creativity and art and we're forever grateful for that. 

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