Monday, January 25

45 Minutes Of War: These New Puritans discuss 'Hidden'

. Monday, January 25

Slight and pensive Jack Barnett does not initially strike you as a man behind one of the first great albums of the year. As he sits across the small, rickety table in North London his quiet voice emanates from just above a neatly buttoned up shirt collar: the atmospheric and foreboding rhythms of his bands album ‘Hidden’ seem galaxies away. It’s not until we scratch at the surface of These New Puritans spectacular second record that the creative drive and cerebral restlessness which power the album emerge. “This album is exactly the music I wanted to make. Says Jack, the word ‘exactly’ firing from his mouth like gunfire. With our first album, as with most first albums, bands find that history dictates what you have to do so with ‘Hidden’ I just wanted it to be totally what I imagined.”

That he has done with aplomb. ‘Hidden’ has set the standard for music in 2010 at a dauntingly high standard. Combining the terse and confident attitude of the Southend four pieces debut ‘Beat Pyramid’ with new found instrumental flourishes then hanging the results off branches of experimentation the album represents a great leap forward for a band already pushing boundaries wherever possible. The density and depth of the record is perhaps explained by the fact that it was originally to be split in two, “At the very beginning it was pretty different. I was writing an album that I was going to call ‘Attack Music’, the tone of that was pretty harsh and then I was writing another album of music for woodwind and brass instruments.” Introducing the orchestral elements into These New Puritans does have some drawbacks however as Jack explains that the band don’t know how to actually play the brass and woodwind parts of ‘Hidden’ meaning a reliance on sampling to transfer the album into a live experience. Add to this the scattered use of a children’s choir throughout and you see that ‘Hidden’ might provide more than a few headaches for the band. Logistics don’t matter in Jacks brain though as he says, “When I realised that I could put the two together into one, from that point onwards I knew exactly what it was going to sound like.”

Picking up on this element of These New Puritans Jack says, “The more you do your own thing then the better chance you have of finding a niche of people. If you create something that’s not done before then that’s great, people fall down by attempting to do something unique for the sake of being different.” Talk moves on to the way bands rely on the parameters of genre and style as a safety net and how releasing yourself from these shackles is the best way to make interesting music. Any heavy metal bands who have been sharing space with These New Puritans recently may want to look away however, “We’ve been playing in a lot of rehearsal studios and you always hear absolutely terrible bands practising in the rooms next door. I think a lot of people want to be in bands but can’t really be bothered to write the music, whereas I’m not that bothered about being in a band but love writing music.”

This love for writing and creating is none more obvious than later that evening when These New Puritans take to the stage for an instore appearance at London’s Rough Trade East. Flanked by two drummers who are doing their level best to demolish both their sticks and the audiences ears the tribal beats blend with Jacks looped and distorted vocals amidst a bed of sampled brass and woodwind. These disparate bedfellows should not rest easy yet they combine to create a dense sound reminiscent of a gang fight in a post apocalyptic sci-fi novel.

The sense of dread and forthcoming terror on ‘Hidden’ manifests itself across the album as well, from the swiping of swords as percussion to the desolate children’s chants. Even the recording process had a feeling of finality “We recorded it in various studios, all of which closed down practically as soon as we left. We were going to them and about two we were literally the last bands to record in there”. Recording the brass and wood parts in one day in Prague These New Puritans finished their album in September of last year but decided to wait until 2010 to unleash it on the general public. The reason Jack gives for this wait is that he feels the album would have been “lost” in amongst other releases in 2009. Despite saying this he states that the band hold no great similarity with innovative acts like Animal Collective and The xx and that he finds no inspiration in the present day. Whilst it’s strange that you would avoid being lumped in with similarly unique and creative bands then deny any affinity with your peers it shows Jack and his bands bullish independence, a streak all great creators need.


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