Robin Hughes reviews Field of Reeds by These New Puritans
These New Puritans could have been like so many other Noughties indie bands. Though their debut album, 2008’s Beat Pyramid, was more texturally and rhythmically diverse than many other offerings, it was easy to imagine them going the way of The Rakes, The Rifles, and many others; a second album released to middling reviews, possibly stretching to a third, before anonymity beckons. What they actually did, though, was far more interesting. 2010’s Hidden was, according to songwriter Jack Barnett, written entirely on bassoon. It had two fully orchestral numbers, large amounts of Japanese taiko drums, and sound effects including a knife being sharpened. Landfill indie it was not. It was one of 2010’s most critically acclaimed albums, and rightly so; your humble correspondent saw These New Puritans live at that time and it was an incredibly powerful performance.
Field of Reeds is a far less militant proposition, though equally unconventional. Opener ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’ features no drums at all, focussing on plaintive piano chords, and a haunting, reverb-laden vocal. This turns out to be a distillation of the album as a whole. Each track is a reimagining of the basic form: some with drums, some without, some more upbeat, others almost funereal, all carry a sense of dread. The centrepiece of the album is track four, ‘V (Island Song)’, which is also perhaps the closest These New Puritans get to a normal song. The fact that it is nine minutes long, three minutes of which is a loping drumbeat overlaid with strings and indeterminate chanting, tells you everything you need to know about this album. You cannot describe the music itself in much another way; it has its own distinct atmosphere that is so much more than the sum of its parts.
If you like weird, sometimes overwhelming, but always fulfilling music then give it a go; you will not be disappointed. Scared and confused, perhaps, but not disappointed.
Image Credit: Infectious