White & Blue
The Anselm's eponymous debut album earmarked new territory for Christian music when it was released in 2006. They called their blend of understated song-writing and instrumental pieces "reflective sub-rock" and the critics agreed that this was "a new approach"(xt3.com) and "a distinct sound... nicely carving out their own corner" (Christianity Today). In May 2009 The Anselm will be seeking to further furnish their own corner of Christian music with the release of White and Blue, the sophomore studio album, through Northern Ireland's 12tribe Records.The album will contain 10 new tracks crafted within the reflective subrock aesthetic, and laid down under the supervision of Peter Pratt in his Blueroom Studios in Donaghadee, Co Down. A new producer and a proper studio have had a telling effect on the album's sound with everything crisper and fuller, the whole album feeling brighter than the debut; but that reflective subrock approach is still very much felt throughout. Clocking in at just over half an hour, White and Blue showcases The Anselm's ability to fashion concise, musically articulate songs that still contain true substance and depth. This is an album that once more aims to lift the spirit and deepen our appreciation of Jesus Christ and from beginning to end shifts our attention from what's been done for us in the past to what awaits us in the future via our experience of the present, which is the album's chief consideration. Beginning with Love You Showed, the album establishes the life and death of the Lord Jesus as the foundation of all that comes after, expressing thankfulness and a sense of wonder at God's grace. Of course the love shown in that past sacrifice is felt presently and September Sun brings the focus forward to considering our relationship with the Son. With the present now in view, Build|Hear|Speak considers the responsibility of the disciple and challenges us to redeem our time with productive service. Then comes the emotional heart of the album as Bruised acknowledges the attrition of life in a difficult world but points us to the gentleness of the saviour who can restore a bruised reed because He was bruised for us. Sorrow for Sin carries the thought further and asks us to appreciate how every sin we commit had a very real cost to the Saviour, and confesses our continuing sinfulness, in light of which the celebration of God's grace given voice in His Blood is all the more potent. If Bruised was the agonised cry of the struggling pilgrim heart in light of the challenge of Build Hear Speak, then Just Be Still is the answering encouragement to rely upon the companionship of the sovereign Lord to help the sojourning spirit to look upward. Good Samaritan gives something of an overview of what's gone before, considering the initial act of salvation and the continuing provision of the saviour before looking to the promise of His return, which is the theme taken up by the last 2 tracks on the album. Come Away and the album's title track White and Blue are also, not coincidentally, the most upbeat and raucous tracks on the album as The Anselm revel in the prospect of the future glory that is inherent in all the Lord has done for us. The album finishes with our minds trained on the New Jerusalem and the endlessness of the eternal home of all who trust in Christ. The album closes with the echoing refrain of "It's the beginning..." and the unspoken thought that when all eternity stretches out before us, this brief time on earth will find it's proper context. After Love You Showed has created the backdrop of what's been done for us at the cross and September Sun colours it with an appreciation of how it opens up a relationship with Christ for us, the band begin to focus on how we respond to that in our present day lives. We are encouraged to spend our time profitably in Build Hear Speak, while challenged to let Christ's experience on the cross guide our lifestyle in Sorrow For Sin. We see the struggle of living in a brutal world in Bruised, while being encouraged to rest upon the provision of the Lord's comfort and strength to face the world in Just Be Still. His Blood and Good Samaritan are careful to keep bringing our minds back to that central act of grace and it's meaning for us today. The Lord's return and His promise to take us away is celebrated in Come Away before White and Blue closes the album with a few snapshots of where we're going and the thought that it is there in heaven that our lives really begin after the brief prelude we play out here on earth. The album begins and ends in celebration, with brisk and punchy tunes that bookend the more contemplative core. When the pace is up The Anselm keep it tight, with a driving rhythm section and spritely riffs dressing McCabe's melodic guitar and vocals. However, as things become more reflective, the band allows the songs a little space to breathe, Hutchinson's chiming guitar becomes more haunting while bass and drums are more about weaving texture than keeping pace. Throughout, McCabe's voice communicates with characteristic honesty and emotion, frequently mirrored with empathy in Andrews' harmonies. Engaging and moving, often refreshing, White and Blue is an album filled with a warmth and human response to the divine, parcelled up in 10 three minute parcels of reflective subrock songsmithery.