Beatrix Players are a London-based female trio, comprising Amanda Alvarez, Jess Kennedy and Amy Birks. They have been described as combining elements of Folk, Jazz, Progressive and Classical music, citing influences as diverse as Michael Nyman and Regina Spector whilst drawing comparisons to the likes of Kate Bush, Ludovico Einaudi and, to my ears, Tori Amos.
Taking their name from the Latin ‘Viatrix’, which has been bestowed in various forms on self-denying mystics, royal consorts, self-sacrificing martyrs, heroines, assassins and even Holy Roman Empresses, the trio have given themselves something to live up to. No small irony then that the name is also often chosen by tragedians for some of their characters, the literal meaning being “she who makes happy”.
The group first formed in 2014, but it was in 2015 that they decided to take their unique sound, an amazing combination of vocals, piano and cello, into Snap Studios in London to record their debut album. Magnified, due for release at the end of the month, is a self-produced work which was mixed by BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winner Jim Moray.
There is what could be described as an adult flavour to the topics for these songs, focusing on relationships, change, childhood events, and even crisis moments. That said, Magnified does not come across as a solemn album, indeed it is most uplifting at times. The album opener Rushlight, for example, is about finding strength after being pushed around by someone, while Roses uses a historical moment to help express the love of a parent and how they would do anything for their child. Jess states, “they are not unafraid to examine the less pleasant aspects of the human condition and experience”. Amy explains the writing process as, “Jess comes up with a piano idea, song structure and some production ideas, I then come up with vocal melody lyrics before Amanda adds her cello parts”.
The songs have a bewitching effect, haunting at times with some hypnotic melodies that draw you into the musical world of the Players. Considering the minimal instrumentation used, the sound often has a full feel to it without losing that space between the musicians, with both delicate and powerful chords used to clever effect. The songs are mostly piano driven with essentially placed cello wrapping around the song. Walk Away finds the cello taking the lead, here providing some beautiful moments. In fact the piano, cello playing and the vocals are all of a high quality, and it is this that helps to lift the album to another level, indeed it is the actual absence of guitar and drums that makes Beatrix Players’ sound unique. The thirteen songs here are beautifully crafted, performed and presented, creating their own sonic universe.
Music is a wonderful thing; there are times when an album resonates with you and this has happened here for me. Their classical and folk influenced take on prog and pop/rock should be allowed to reach a bigger audience, as iamthemorning have highlighted there is success to be had in this field. I would love to be able to see these songs performed live, as I am sure this would give them an even more emotive quality. Go listen and buy it, it’s wonderful and mesmerising stuff.
01. Rushlight (4:14)
02. Lady of the Lake (5:17)
03. Never Again (3:41)
04. Not for the First Time (3:47)
05. Molehill (3:19)
06. What Do You Say (3:28)
07. Ophelia (2:40)
08. Walk Away (3:02)
09. Obey Me (5:31)
10. Unpolished Pearl (3:14)
11. High Heel Shoes (2:17)
12. All That Thinking (3:00)
13. Roses (3:34)
Total Time – 47:51
Amanda Alvarez – Cello
Amy Birks – Lead & Backing Vocals
Jess Kennedy – Piano, Flute, Backing Vocals
Robyn Hemmings – Double Bass (tracks 8 & 13)
Anna Jenkins – Violin (tracks 3,5 & 9), Viola (track 5)
Record Label: n/a
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 31st March 2017