These New Puritans - Hidden
Alex Nelson 17/01/2010
These New Puritans' debut release, 2008's Beat Pyramid, was a mish-mash of angular guitars, glitchy beats and grimey indie-tronica. A fresh sound in the slowly dying British indie movement. But now, Jack Barnett and co. have taken their forward thinking approach to music one step further and, with the help of a children's choir and a vast array of instruments including oboes and pastel pianos, crafted the first truly great release of the year in the form of Hidden.
Opening with the brass band refrain (more on that later) of Time Xone, a mourningful drone of trumpets and trombones setting a sombre tone, before giving way suddenly to the pounding drums and familiar spasmodic synths of first single We Want War, a seven-minute slow build of atmospheric bass and choral vocals. Already this is starting to sound a lot different from the band's only two-year-old previous canon of work.
Three Thousand announces its arrival with a series of gunshot drums, pierced by the sound of a hundred knives being sharpened at once. This in turn brings forward a dense bass-line and orchestral keys, making the whole thing sound strangely like some newer, darker form of hip-hop, Jack Barnett's deadpan delivery of his typically high-concept lyrics, with mentions of 'slicing through time' among other things, being the only thing in keeping with what was previously thought of as These New Puritans' 'sound.' Hologram for example comes on like the Film 2010 theme song, all jabs of jazzy piano and lazy rhythms, before breaking into joyous vocals and a stamping thump.
Album highlight Attack Music blasts its intro through the speakers, drums hammering once again to demand attention from the listener. Stabs of angular guitars position themselves against filtered bass sounds as a troupe of oboes (yes, oboes) parp out their dulcet tones over Sophie Sleigh-Johnson's metallic synth in a doom laden cacophony of dissonance. For the chorus, Jack is joined by a children's choir for what seems to be an eerie ode to the September 11th attacks, references to holy relics abound, as the song continues to stomp its oppressive beats into the audience's ears
Fire-Power is fff, a b-side from Elvis, TNPS 2008 single, re-recorded for a new age, sub-bass supplementing the tribal rhythms of George Barnett's drums. The brass band refrain that opens the record again makes a disconsolate appearance towards the end of the track, halting the song from the fast-paced assault it begins as to the sable tromp it becomes. More gunshot drumming on Drum Courts - Where Corals Lie, a song that seems to shift form and time signature with each layer of sound that is grafted to its rapid thunder of a drum track, whether it be low frequency bass throbs or the gradual crescendo of woodwind.
Album closer 5 is a mostly instrumental celebration of everything that has happened in the past 45 minutes up this point. Newly introduced xylophones mingle with the now familiar brass section that has plastered the record, this most cheerful of instruments managing with panache to sound just as dark as a brooding synth or heavy bass. The darkness soon shifts as the sound of something resembling a full orchestra strikes up, and the song becomes a blithe symphony, almost a release from the oppressive grip of These New Puritans' industrial tendencies, the rhapsodical choir giving one final push before the running time is up. Then silence.
These New Puritans' Hidden is an ambitious album, unlike anything the band, or most other people for that matter, have done beforehand. It still manages to retain something almost indescribably similar to the first record in terms of tone at least, and TNPS established fan-base will no doubt be satisfied by this latest effort. While not an easy listen, give it some time and an open mind and it is an album you can easily find interest and intrigue in.