These New Puritans: Hidden
‘Cinematic’ is an oft overused adjective when it comes to music, and I’m as guilty as the next person of spouting the term. But for this blackened swamp funk of a record by British young-starts These New Puritans I’m gonna’ switch shit up and use the word ‘Musical’. As in, stage musical. Opera, even.
Actually, yes, that’s it; Hidden is the score to some incredibly dark and avant-garde contemporary opera along the lines of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster cycle. It’s about blood, death and gooey sex acts. In fact, the Barney reference is entirely spot on because the heavy use of tubas, clarinets and horns on this record is reminiscent of the recent stuff Bjork (Barney’s wife) has been doing with orchestras and brass sections. But where Bjork’s adventures have been indulgent and largely unsuccessful, chief songwriter in These New Puritans, Jack Barnett creates a constantly shifting sound that’s incredibly visual and filled with reference points that are completely unfamiliar when digested whole.
Hidden is 43 minutes of lush, low-register orchestration off set against rhythmic phrases and noisy effects defected from grime, dancehall and dubstep. Odd structures, musical passages that appear in multiple songs and tracks that end suddenly are only part of what makes this album so wonderfully weird. Did I mention that someone plays ‘chains’ and sharpens knives on a number of songs? And then there’s Fire-Power which samples the sound of a hammer crushing a melon covered in cream-biscuits to achieve the sound of someone’s skull being smashed in. It’s in there somewhere, apparently. The liner notes to this record read like the notes to Liars’ (somewhat similar) Drum’s not Dead.
These New Puritans’ previous album, their debut Beat Pyramid was an OK melange of guitar-based post-punk. On Hidden, they go way deeper into that scene and come off sounding like This Heat and PiL mating with a symphonic orchestra. Apparently Wu-Tang Clan were also a massive influence on this record. If you can hear that, tell me where.
The thing about Hidden is that noise nerds, rock fans, electronic freaks and indie die-hards are all going to find something to latch onto. I’ve been listening to this for a few weeks now and I’m still discovering noises and moments of beauty that I hadn’t heard before. Trust me, this record is amazing. Go hear for yourself.