Album: Field of Reeds
Release Date: Infectious Music
Southend quartet aim for masterpiece on orchestral 3rd album, but only occasionally reach the heights required
When confronted with the argument that Classical music puts all other genres to shame in terms of its virtuosity, organisation and its mesmerizing ability to push and pull at the senses, it's certainly hard to deny. Southend band These New Puritans have always been a group with the desire to push boundaries looming over and seeping from every pour of their music. After their dark and lurching contortions of Electronica and Hip Hop on their widely acclaimed 2010 album "Hidden", they appeared to be THE British band to keep people guessing, and presently re- appear with something incredible for their 3rd album.
Three years later and we arrive at "Field of Reeds", an album so meticulously crafted that it must have taken close to every waking breath to plan and piece together. It's both an expected and unexpected occurrence. After the primarily electronic premise of their first two albums, a record of 9 drawn- out orchestral symphonies certainly wouldn't have been high on many people's list of guesses. Nevertheless, the question "Hidden" begged was "where on Earth do they go from here?", and well, Prokofiev- inspired mysteria, if not a natural progression, is certainly a just one. But is it incredible? Is it the masterpiece it SHOULD be? Alas, no.
There are three pieces of astonishing achievement on "Field of Reeds." The first is the 3rd track "The Light In Your Name", which transpires from a ghostly, spacious hum into a hellish contortion of horns and pianos, conjuring an atmosphere wrought with mysterious guilt.
The second is "V (Island Song)", reflective in manner (Jack Barnett opens up on the lyric "On the Island there are no people or places, and I'll go walking, and I'll know where to find you") and is seemingly promotional of an idyllic paradise. It's the most robust moment here, a discernible groove and dramatically performed piano piece which then descends into a wind- swept, echoing final 5 minutes. The final astonishment is "Nothing Else", a piece that swells and smacks ridiculous amounts of a full orchestra in elemental force.
However, these are the only moments likely to shake you in their vastness and craft on "Field of Reeds." "Fragment Two" and "Organ Eternal" seem restricted by omnipresent chains and are not allowed to evolve into beasts that will swallow you whole, despite the symphonic close of the former. Opener "This Guy is in Love with You" is deliberately abstract with it's distant female vocal sample, an simply comes off as pretentious.
In a way, "Field of Reeds" is These New Puritans' "Kid A." Not that it matches it's brilliance, but it does match it's intent. This is certainly something to be applauded; all of the band's soul and cohesion went in to forming this, and when it works it's heart- bursting. But it's a mighty shame that, in the case of "Field of Reeds", beauty and consistency don't get on well.
Key tracks: Nothing Else, The Light in Your Name, V (Island Song)
For fans of: Radiohead, Portico Quartet