Reviewed by Elliot Rose
In the past the renowned Bethel Church of Redding, California, have produced some of the richest and most passionate worship heard anywhere, putting their spin on popular worship songs as well as showing off their own crop of songwriters. But this album is a long way from the towering stadium rock sounds which we associate with Bethel/Jesus Culture. Brian Johnson said they wanted to "create a new sound, something that shakes the stereotypes of what people might think Bethel Music is," and they've certainly achieved that. Acoustic guitars provide the heart of the ambience and with the additional violins, cellos and pianos, the musicians have developed a smooth, mellow tone. The songs themselves are heartfelt and moving - particularly those penned by Jeremy Riddle, whose voice and lyrics shine brighter than the rest, notably in "Walk In The Promise" and "Fall Afresh". Overall, however, 'The Loft Sessions' lacks the passion and atmosphere of previous releases and though one can applaud the brave initiative of putting on one side, momentarily at least, the increasingly stereotypical pop rock template the tracks here are often too calm and understated to engage worshippers like some of their back catalogue has done. The less said about the DVD the better. It looks like they did an unplugged live show, but the sound quality was so bad they had to awkwardly paste the studio recordings over the top, which ended up badly synchronised and distracting. As a viewer, I felt very uncomfortable, unengaged and unable to enjoy the mellow acoustic music.
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Bethel Music’s latest project, The Loft Sessions, is a refreshing and authentic worship experience where community and creativity collide. After refurbishing an old rustic loft, the Bethel Music team gathered friends and family for several nights of passionate worship that set the stage for this ground-breaking worship CD/DVD.
Venturing from the live congregational sound, The Loft Sessions explores new territory, merging an array of acoustic creativity with modern melodies. The songs by Brian & Jenn Johnson, Jeremy Riddle and other emerging artists are original and contagious, leaving the listener in a place of joy, passion and intimacy.
Features 10 songs on CD, 10 songs on DVD plus extra bonus footage.