These New Puritans
For NME darlings These New Puritans, the choice was stark and clear. Hence, new album, Hidden — a heady collage of ideas and fearless sonic abandon. Not content in any way with the hoary standards of being “just another rock band,” the Puritans (twin brothers Jack and George Barnett, Thomas Hein, and Sophie Sleigh-Johnson) embrace new and seemingly conflicting ideas and aesthetics with a reckless confidence, willing to find the hidden patterns and connections between Siouxsie Sioux’s Creatures, chamber music, J Dilla, new-school Jamaican dancehall, apocalypse acolytes like Death in June, hoary ol’ big beat, brass and woodwind, and Kevin Ayers. Hidden is an album that takes several listens to fully digest and appreciate (save for doomy, beat-heavy barnburners like “Three Thousand”), but after those initial forays, it continually yields new delights.
Hell, start the album with a beyond moody string-and-horns movement called “Time Xone.” (“Canticle” breaks up the album along similar lines. Fascinating.) Fuck the rock n’ roll, man. “Three Thousand” is this fucking amazing hybrid of Suicide’s madness, hip hop swagger, and lush Gothic fatalism with the drumbeat alone! Next up is a John Cale-ish/Steve Reich piano-led mantra, full of tension and feeling like there should be comfort from this “classical” instrumentation. “Fire – Power” mixes nu-reggae and dancehall (literally with the Capleton-aping references “fire! fire! fire!”) with the OCD industrial noise of prime Nitzer Ebb.
“Drum Courts — Where Corals Lie” starts off with martial sped-up drumming worthy of “Idioteque” or “Total War” before slowly melting into elegiac strums and subliminal vocals, then becomes a disorienting mix of the two. “White Chords” takes a chopped drumbeat nicked from nouveau R&B and weds it to the suffocating isolation of the Cure’s “Lullaby” for a nightmare dreamscape of paranoia and control. Sometimes it’s so minimal it feels like the song has stopped. The bell-choir and strings idyll of “5” ends the album on an ominous note, with a choir of children wordlessly reaching for… something.
Domino Records: www.dominorecordco.com