It would have taken a finely tuned mystic to predict the grandeur that would surround These New Puritans’ much acclaimed second album Hidden, an ambitious collection which was merited with NME’s album of the year in 2010. So, three years later, you may assume that having perfected an exclusive sound to call their own, the band would nurture this style into creating a Hidden 2.0 right? Wrong. Within the first 25 seconds of Field of Reeds, it is apparent that These New Puritans have tried everything but looking back. Once again, they entered the studio with acclaimed musician and producer Graham Sutton, and his input is more than noticeable in the construction of this 53-minute epic. The connections between Field of Reeds and Bark Psychosis (of which Sutton is a founding member) and the latter work of Talk Talk will inevitably subsist, but with each listen it becomes evident that there is so much more at hand. This album cannot be classified as post-rock, minimalist, or ambient. For better or for worse, this is a direction that will not be pigeonholed, and These New Puritans are brave to have taken it.
Field of Reeds has been intricately designed and must not be taken with a lackadaisical approach, or at least not upon the first listen. From the second you press play to the moment the music stops, you are on a journey. Each song rises and falls, twist and turns and even after the tenth listen, new and subtle events will take centre stage. Although this album was crafted using an extensive and rich catalogue of musicians/instruments, the greatest tool employed by These New Puritans is their use of dynamics, with songs such as ‘V (Island Song)’ constantly keep you on edge. Juxtapositions are created through euphoric and dissonant atmospherics, which are then brought thundering down in a collision of drums. ‘The Light In Your Name’ is quite frankly anarchy masquerading as a thing of beauty. With each passing moment, cracks begin to show, eventually concluding in a peak of meticulously designed chaos.
This album is most definitely a risk, and one which will separate fans and critics alike. Anyone anticipating a rhythmically charged continuation of Hidden will be left disappointed. However, taken from a neutral approach, this album can be regarded as one of the most rewarding releases of the decade. It is intricate, sophisticated and carefully constructed. Every second has been painstakingly fashioned, and yet somehow sounds improvised and chaotic. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a barrel of laughs, but the more time you put into this creation, the more there is to gain. These New Puritans have matured and improved with each release, and fingers crossed there is more to come. We should all remain thankful that there are still musicians out there willing to take a risk, especially when the results are of this standard.
Check out their track ‘Fragment Two’ below.