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These New Puritans – Hidden February 11, 2010

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Music, Music Videos.
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Title: Hidden

Artist: These New Puritans

Release: Angular/Domino, 2010

Genre: Experimental

RIYD: Creepy things, dance-y things, Steve Reich-y things

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A lot of excellent music has been released lately, with artists like Beach House, Four Tet, Hot Chip, and Vampire Weekend delivering the best albums of their careers. And though each of those albums was definitely a treat for the ears, none of them really caught me off guard: I expected them to be great, and they were. The sophomore album by These New Puritans, however, was in a different boat entirely. I don’t usually listen to music in the dark and somewhat demonic style produced by TNP and their peers, Hidden grabbed me on the first listen and held my attention for several repeated listens after. Described by frontman Jack Barnett as a “dancehall meets Steve Reich” musical fusion, the album draws inspiration from various different styles but still manages to retain an incredibly unique and innovative sound.

Essential to that sound is the darkness mentioned above. They definitely weren’t kidding when they said that this album would contain a sample of a melon being smashed by a hammer to simulate the sound of a human head being crushed. But they didn’t stop there, they also added knives being sharpened, warbled angelic voices, and a boy’s choir chanting choruses like “We want war!” and “This is attack music.” Needless to say, this is one fucking creepy album.

It’s only once you get past the gothic veil, though, that Hidden reveals its true genius: its rhythmic center. These New Puritans have crafted a dance album with their second release, albeit a disturbing one. Taiko drums, rapid woodwinds, and heavy beats propel the album forward, serving as a sturdy backbone for the tribal chanting and electronic embellishments that float and pulsate around it. The Reich and dancehall elements both shine through, taking the listener alternatively between minimalist, repetitive percussion in some interlude tracks and the call-and-response sing-speak of verses and choruses. The balance of the two is one of Hidden’s greatest strengths, providing much-needed respite between some intense and lengthy bouts of morbidity. The tracks themselves also shift in pace, melody, and tone at unexpected moments throughout, creating an analog to the build-up and release of tension that characterizes most dance music. These New Puritans’ version is just a bit more horrifying.

I suspect that this album will garner even more attention in March when it hits the U.S., and it certainly deserves all the praise in its future. These New Puritans did well with Hidden to stand out among the first great albums of the new decade and have basically asserted themselves in the music sphere as a unique and powerful presence. To all the rest of the bands releasing new material this year, the ball is in your court.

Check out the appropriately dark video for “We Want War” below:

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