Album Reviews - Reviews

These New Puritans – Field Of Reeds


Distant, stand-offish, awkward in the extreme and too serious by half. With the music press expressing such sentiments to describe These New Puritans, you get the impression that, despite the praise heaped upon 2010’s Hidden, the Southend trio would be afforded little leniency or understanding if they were to make a misstep with its follow-up.

Thankfully however, Fields of Reeds once again sees the brothers Barnett unequivocally delivering a record worthy of bountiful acclaim that will surely feature in many critic’s reckoning for album of the year come December. Recorded over the course of twelve months, throughout the LP’s conception Jack Barnett hinted at many a possible new direction, the most outlandish of which saw him state that he wanted to make a ‘Disney Pop’ album. While it always seemed unlikely to expect These New Puritans to begin sounding like a Jonas Brothers cover band all of a sudden, Field of Reeds couldn’t be a record less fitting for such a moniker. For starters there is not a chorus worthy of the name throughout, while over the course of its nine tracks it features contributions from the man credited with having the lowest voice in Britain, a Portuguese jazz singer named Elisa Rodrigues and, most unbelievably of all, from Shylo…who just happens to be a hawk. In a recent interview with The Guardian Barnett justified the ornithological presence by brusquely stating: “I didn’t know how to record a hawk properly before I started the album, and now I do.”

Such statements give insight into a recording process where orthodoxy is seemingly abandoned and the creative urges of the band’s mastermind are given free rein. At times the results are spectacular. The sweeping, almost orchestral, movements utilised throughout create an ethereal feel while Barnett’s vocals are reserved, at times almost spoken, as he offers his oblique reflections.  Split into three parts, the drums fade gradually throughout to the point where they are virtually non-existent come the record’s denouement, long-since having ceded dominance to flowing clarinet and piano arrangements. Tracks are lengthy without appearing bloated, indeed the highlight is provided by ‘V (Island Song)’ which weighs in at over nine minutes, with the atmospheric and haunting nature of the LP growing as the seconds edge by.

Repeated listens will no doubt reap rewards, the record’s non-distinct narrative seemingly requiring a degree of unraveling, but in the interim These New Puritans have once again produced a confounding and engaging effort that justifies their re-invention. We will just have to wait that little bit longer for the Disney Pop. Jonathan Bradley

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