These New Puritans
As their name suggests, These New Puritans are a group on a very precise mission. Hailing from around Southend-On-Sea, and consisting of Barnett, his twin brother George, Thomas Hein and Sophie Sleigh-Johnson, they have established their reputation through a series of high profile live appearances alongside the likes of The Kills and Klaxons. They first came to prominence with their 2008 debut album, Beat Pyramid. Urgent, pared down, eyes on stalks, sharp as a stick, it was hailed by the NME as demonstrating a “span of ideas and singularity of vision that simply shouldn't happen to 20 year olds. They've created their own imperfect world.”
Now comes the evidence of that in the form of Hidden, their second album, a work so extraordinary in its range, ambition and clarity of purpose as to defy overall comparison with anything you have ever heard. Barnett is right; These New Puritans are not “experimental” in the hazy, blurry, hit and hope in the dark, sense of the word. He and they know exactly what they are doing. Hidden is an album which pulls together a host of unlikely influences – the later, more developed work of Steve Reich, with whose “interlocking rhythms” Barnett fell in love when he first heard them at a Leeds record shop, Britney Spears, Japanese percussion and, in particular, the great British composer Benjamin Britten, with whom These New Puritans literally share common ground – the Thames estuary in which both grew up.
Preparations for Hidden were rigorous and exacting. In order to score and arrange the woodwind, brass and choir sections which recur throughout the album, Barnett spent a frantic month learning notation. The upshot of this is the seasoned, unselfconscious accomplishment Barnett brings to the classical sections of Hidden. However, he is also conscious of the infamous, lazy habit of indie bands ladling their more sombre efforts with strings in a lazy attempt to denote gravitas. Barnett was sure to sabotage any possibility of that on Hidden.
When you hear music from these guys, you’ll left wondering just what took place and immediately longing to experience it again. Precise mission well and truly accomplished. Another imperfect world created and finished to perfection.