In the modern world, These New Puritans are a bunch of pale, skinny, serious 20-somethings championed by NME and groomed by Dior, but it’s probable that they exist in another dimension altogether, free of pop culture excess. Initially, it would have been easy to dismiss These New Puritans as merely another hype band who, by the skin of their teeth, clenched the tail end of British post-punk revival.
With their risky third album, These New Puritans abandoned the angular dance-punk of Beat Pyramid and the gloomy electronic beats of Hidden to reinvent themselves once again for Field of Reeds, a record as indebted to classical scores and avant-garde jazz as rock. Taking a hands-off, live approach to the recording process, and allowing open space and emptiness to take precedence over beats, the music has a disturbing, dystopian feel to it, swinging from detached to nightmarish before resolving into something lovingly tranquil.
Some of the best songs, like “Fragment Two,” “V (Island Song),” and “Spiral”, thrive in this push and pull between atonal dissonance and sheer beauty. Even These New Puritans’ most stark numbers, while often lacking a concrete backbeat or definitive structure, are bursting with details and ideas. Ambient textures, constructed from melancholic horns and eerie analog synthesizer tones, add a wavering undercurrent that is often hair-raising and haunting.
The music on Field Of Reeds is certainly not easily accessible but, at its heart, this is a supremely evocative album. The production also equally unconventional. After writing the material in Essex and Amsterdam, Jack Barnett fleshed out the parts with his brother George and Tom Hein before recording in London, Gloucester, and Berlin with new honey-voiced Portuguese singer Elisa Rodrigues, utilizing an unusual magnetic resonator piano and meticulously detailing the songs with field recordings, including breaking glass and the screaming of an actual hawk. This perfectionism, present in the sonics and in the complex arrangements, makes Field of Reeds the most challenging title in their catalog and also the most groundbreaking – this could very well be These New Puritans’ masterwork. (Text Teuku Ajie)
1. Fragment Two
2. V (Island Song)
5. Field of Reeds
[embedplusvideo height=”351″ width=”575″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/15J5OTx” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/ftvICVWLBKY?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=ftvICVWLBKY&width=575&height=351&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=¬es=” id=”ep7890″ /]