These New Puritans are back, this time with an album that sounds like the music you’d hear in a near death experience; the elevator music of purgatory. If Beat Pyramid sounded like an off-the-rails life of sin, Hidden like a dark guilt-trip induced by the Catholic church, Fields of Reeds is the sound of a life slipping into the bright, white light. Elysian Fields?
As with most of TNPs back catalogue, there is an abundance of complex rhythms in which to immerse yourself. However, that’s one of the few similarities with previous work. The speed and madness of their debut album is completely gone. Likewise, a lot of the more distinctive electronic elements to their sound do not come across so clearly.
The album follows the path that Hidden led the band on, away from any embarrassing associations with a ‘new rave’ sound and into the neo-classical. If you didn’t have Hidden to link the album to Beat Pyramid, you would be hard pushed to guess it was the same band, as most of the album’s sound is made up of classical instruments. The use of the bassoon, which gained attention from critics on Hidden, now plays an even bigger role; playing long solos in songs such as ‘Spiral’.
With this said, electronics are still fundamental to the album. Tracks such as ‘Organ Eternal’ begin with repetitive, minimalist, electronic beats, which are then accompanied by beast-like sounds and speech in reverse. (A hawk was, in fact, let loose in the studio for sound effects.) Jack’s singing and coherent lyrics are about as present here as they were on Hidden. This combination of a calm, atmospheric sound with minimal lyrics now places TNPs ina group not dissimilar to bands such as Sigur Rós and Kraftwerk.
Title track, ‘Field of Reeds’, contains a closely intertwined blend of electronic and classical sound; a blend that gained 2010’s Hidden so much acclaim. The skill in TNPs’ style of creating music is bringing together such a diverse range of sounds to form their own, single sound. The album’s only notable weakness is that the majority of its songs sound too much like an end product, following paths they were previously moving down with rigid loyalty.
TNPs seem to have mastered the relationship between electronic and classical music, to the point where they can seamlessly bind them together. Field of Reeds is a great album but it marks an ‘end of road’ point in terms of the path TNPs have been following in their music. Re-navigating their path is something the band will have to consider for their next album.
…Ian is listening to MF Doom – Doomsday…