These New Puritans albums
Led by twin brothers Jack and George Barnett, These New Puritans are one of the greatest bands of the 21st century. They take some of what has come before (the post rock scene of the 1990’s mixed with Baroque Era Classical music) and create something that is entirely unique in rock n roll today. Their best album so far, 2010’s Hidden, is a milestone recording that pushes recording techniques and sounds to brave new heights. Never before has the old fashioned met the modern world with such electrifying results.
Jack Barnett– Vocals, Guitar
George Barnett – Drums, Percussion
Thomas Hein – Bass, Sampler
Sophie Sleigh-Johnson- Keyboardist
Talk Talk, Penguin Café Orchestra, Bark Psychosis, Wire, Public Image Limited
2008 – (2.5 / 5) – Beat Pryamid
2010 – (5 / 5)+ – Hidden
2013 – (4.5 / 5) – Field of Reeds
Beat Pyramid – (2.5 / 5)
An interesting debut, with a handful of well fleshed out ideas. It is largely a mess though, and sounds very of the time with influences such as the dance punk of PIL, Wire, and Gang of Four.
Greatest Songs: Swords of Truth, Elvis, Numerology
Hidden – (5 / 5)+
Take everything you know about rock music and throw it out the window, then build it up from scratch using 21st century technology. I can’t think of a better analogy for Hidden, the best record of the first half of the 2010s. It is rare that a band creates its own world on an album, but this band does that here with tribal and classical influences. Every song is injected with a sense of personal dread, a kind of longing to create something completely new. Everything works too, “Fire Power” and “Time Xone” are the only ones that leave me a little perplexed but after several listens they are enjoyable too. There is no other album recently that has left me more interested and enthralled. The method in which it was recorded involved a thirteen-piece orchestra, live tracking, and a variety of laptops simultaneously making sounds and recording them. Every one compares it to Talk Talk, but the only thing that sounds like them is that….no one sounds like them.
Now if you but it together that it was produced by Graham Sutton of Bark Psychosis, the real successor to Talk Talk back in the early 90’s, and you may have something there. Whether it be “Orion” the ethereal date song, “Attack Music” and “Three Thousand” the tribal force rock songs (two of the greatest rock songs of all time for sure), “White Chords” and “Hologram” which are new kinds of disjointed ballads, “We Want War” and “Drum Courts – Where Corals Lie” which use collage and experiment with structure, or closer “5” which takes you into orbit using old time madrigals and xylophones, this is music that is both psychedelic and raw. New genre, new sound, I don’t know what to call it besides “revolutionary”.
Greatest Songs: Three Thousand, Hologram, Orion, Attack Music, We Want War
Fields of Reeds – (4.5 / 5)
These New Puritans are the true heirs to Talk Talk in every since of the word. Consequently, that means their sound grows in quality and range of each album. Their debut record in 2008 was inconsistent and overbearing at times, but 2010’s Hidden and 2013’s Field of Reeds take that sound to its (illogical) conclusion. If Hidden was their Spirit of Eden, Field of Reeds is their Laughing Stock. Field of Reeds employs opera style singing to free form compositions in “V (island song)”, repetitive synth from the depths of space on “Organ Eternal”, and a sense of longing like no other on the title track and “Fragment Two”. The meandering style can take some getting use to if listening to rock n roll is your normal mode, as songs such as “Nothing Else”, “Dream”, and opener “This Guys In Love With You” try the listener’s attention span at times. If the record is being judged solely on its entertainment value, those three songs are perhaps the most lacking and could be labled as too ponderous for their own good.
Listening to this album is akin to take your first step on a newly discovered planet in a new galaxy: scary, exciting, and baffling. But Field of Reeds is a triumph for music, it is a step in sound quality and production much like Tortoise and post rock bands were is the 90’s. Guest vocalist Elisa Rodrigues and guest compaoser Michal Ven Der Aa, make songs such as “The Light In Your Name” and “Spiral” majestic and rhythmically loose experiments more akin to 20th century classical music. Field of Reeds use of alternate instruments not traditionally used in rock music (collage sample machine, oboes, bassoons, tympanis, hawk screeches, breaking glass) add to the sense that band like TNP are needed to push rock music in new directions WHILE ALSO being entertaining and melodic songs. They fight and struggle for their art, like all great bands do.
Greatest Songs: V, Organ Eternal, Fragment Two