CD review: These New Puritans, Hidden

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Hidden, the new album from These New Puritans, begins with a two-minute interlude of woodwinds sounds haunting upon the first few listens, but changes in the context of the album as a whole. still sounds haunting, but after hearing the entire album, the context changes and opener “Time Xone” becomes more a warning of the upcoming dangers, a harbinger of imminent perils, that there are heroics to come, that irrevocable changes will shape the characters, that the following ten songs deserve more respect than the pejorative “British art-rock” firmly pigeonholing so many descent bands exported across the pond.

On the next track the music departs to a completely polar landscape, where transported to a satanic samba, a grumble of the song’s title “We Want War” distorted demonic becomes a piece of the beat. Through its winding seven minutes, the song breaks-down its components, rebuilds a few times, and even features a children's choir singing along, before all the portions from the song play at the same time and horns appear and it crescendos in a sound that mimics a slicing sword. In its final moments the Time Xone woodswinds emerge like a character in an opera slinking across the stage.

As themes reappear from previous songs and are reinterpreted on later songs, these memorable flourishes of musical phrases (which are occasionally abstract like the distinct shrill of a slicing sword) build a curious portal terrifically schizophrenic, taking a page out of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and organizing an adventure from a whirlwind of voices and instruments battling for buoyancy.

“Three Thousand” is a musical Where’s Waldo of the cast of reappearing sounds behind high-tuned pianos and trip-hop beats; the lyrics delivered with deliberate monotone. “Hologram” stumbles out a piano rag that staggers ramshackled and shows off their reliance on thundering percussion, as it maintains a groove that sounds purposefully broken, and a forlorn voice croons “Because I’m staying here / the world might disappear / under blankets of snow.”

These New Puritans possess an ambitious dementia. Aligning such opposing flavors and aromas might tart and/or scorch some tongues yet this mixture directs Hidden.

Available now on Domino Records.

3 stars.

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