London based art rock act These New Puritans first sprung upon me as a support act for Bjork on a recent UK tour in an advertisement, so I Youtube'd the band name and the first song that came up was We Want War. Good track I was thinking then, and it eventually lead to me reviewing the album Hidden (click on here to read the review) which I thought was an entertaining and thoroughly enriching listen. Now, TNP have a new album out and it's one that's left me with feelings of anticipation and nervousness in equal measures.
I said that Hidden was quite an act to follow and it would mean Jack Barnett and co. having to exceed beyond what they'd already achieved if the followup was to be as good if not better. The man in question Mr. Barnett is the just about the brains thrown behind the whole project, his skills extend beyond the numerous instruments he plays and in my mind a lot of expectation here, hence my apprehensions. The other concern is that Field Of Reeds apparently has taken a more heavy classical approach and it's left me wondering if it's going to fall into the same trap as Tori Amos' Night Of Hunters. Rather a worry as this record turned out to be a heavy read as was almost its review.
And my other worry? The number of musicians in the recording of Field Of Reeds, it totals fifty three including a string and horn ensemble along with a score of various voices in all tones as well as from schoolchildren. As a perfectionist and by his own admission Jack Barnett "pissed off a few people, drove them mad and worked long hours" to get the notes and beats that he wanted, although the official video release Fragment Two sounds rather minimal if crisp and clear with Barnett in lead vocals and piano accompanied by some of the more primitive but original beats as well as heavy usage of strings and horns.
All very low key so far, and at first I get the same impression with The Light In Your Name. However, here isn't all it seems. The beats feel deliberately disjointed, the piano accompaniment also feels it's had its nose knocked out of its place by Jack Barnett with some notes purposeful in a wrong key until V (Island Song) tries to restore some order with the introduction of the electronic keyboards. It feels much more assured and more solid as the album progresses but Spiral takes a little getting used to with the school choir and a clarinet solo and there's a possible risk of losing your attention there.
However, Organ Eternal is a notable departure from all the acoustic instrumentation with some electronic hooks and xylophones in tow, along with the brass and cellos sharing the spoils in the breaks but Nothing Else returns to the order of the occasional trumpet lead and stripped-to-the-core with featured lead vocals of Barnett and Elisa Rodrigues barely scratching the surface.
My main concern with Field Of Reeds as a whole is that by putting more emphasis on neo-classical TNP have ditched their rock roots that we heard in Hidden and went for a heavier cultured approach. While it's not a bad effort and with much input and organic instrumentation, I really do think that Jack Barnett and co. could've introduced much more beats in the equation and the album as a whole is a bit of an acquired taste. One question remains, will the world be embracing more of the classical trends in the near future?
6 out of ten. Now I see where you were going, but not quite there.
Listen to the album here on Deezer