These New Puritans – HiddenPosted: 26/02/2010
Albums are frequently things of palatable serenity. We sit ignorant in undulating waves of fluffy swirling sound, while subtle aural flavours drift unregistered, become bland and painlessly benumbing. If you’re predisposed to this practice of passive listening then you’ll hate Hidden, the second offering from Southend-on-Sea foursome, These New Puritans.
At first the phlegmatic listener may be put off guard; opening track ‘Time Xone’ is a carefully considered brass/woodwind orchestration that meanders lugubriously, building triumphantly but making way for the shattering call to arms that is ‘We Want War’. Thus begins an aggressive starting point from which TNPS colour the early part of Hidden.
‘Attack Music’ is a combative glass-shattering thug of a song, made all the more threatening via the utilization of a children’s choir. The choir is one of many stark elements that will feature regularly on Hidden. However, it’s the use of the choir coupled with synthetic choral arrangements and unremitting drums that lends a greater air of hostility to an album that keeps the listener at arms length. Tracks such as ‘Fire – Power’ dally with big beat dancehall rhythms that, despite their traditional association with sunny Jamaica, do little to debit the overly ominous themes at large. ‘Orion’ is a haunting post-apocalyptic dystopian troop that finds its menacing punch bolstered behind a choir braced alongside plunging chains. It’s scary stuff.
Elsewhere the use of brass/woodwind orchestrations add welcome respite and a level of maturity to an album that’s often cold and mechanical. There are other lulls from the unrelenting hammer blows that Hidden delivers. ‘Hologram’ is a relatively jovial track that breaks up the pugnacity, demonstrating genuine and much appreciated emotion. It’s when combining both these warm compositions with stark drums and synths that Hidden works best, such as on ‘Drum Courts – Where Corals Lie’. Organic orchestrations juxtaposed with synthetically created ones work masterfully is creating conflicting and jarring emotions.
Occasionally songs border adolescent, especially where lyrics are concerned. ‘Three-Thousand’ for example resembles a sixth form music collaboration between the goths and chavs. It’s close to being too simplistic to work on the same cerebral level that the instrumentation does, such is the relentless bludgeoning of its gait. However, lyrics appear to play a subordinate role on an album that states its case via the mood created by the music.
It’s what Hidden isn’t that makes it the kind of album you’ll want to revisit. Vast chasms exist, bleak, but ultimately a void in which one can welcome the intrigue that potential peril brings. Hidden demands attention by way of shaking the listener, whether the response be uncomfortable or agreeable, what’s important is that it garners response. It may be understandable to question the reasoning behind listening to an album such as this. The truth is that sometimes it’s healthy to explore what lies behind nightmares.