These New Puritans - Hidden
This year's Merriweather Post Pavilion? A Horrors-style transformation from indie ne'er-do-wells to sonic astronauts? Some are making such claims for the second album from Southend's These New Puritans, a heady melange of r'n'b rhythms, brass, bassoon and monastic choirs that makes few concessions to marketability or fashion.
The tentative brass of 'Time Xone' may lull the listener into expecting something akin to The Delgados but the guitars never appear and the drums don't kick in until the Middle Eastern beats of 'We Want War' start hammering out their battle cry, the sound of a sword being unsheathed cutting through the tension. 'Three Thousand' is low-rider sinister, "slicing through time" before the jazzy pulses of 'Hologram' releases some of the pressure. 'Attack Music' revisits the pervading thread of post-millenial dread ("It was September / This is attack music") and finally a dirty fuzz guitar breaks through, struggling to find a place between the stabs of woodwind. 'Orion' flirts with Klaxons-style mysticism/nonsense before the sweet pastoralisms of 'Canticle' briefly swap the vastness of space for green English meadows.
'White Chords' dares bring a little more humanity, with a chorus that actually dares radio producers to give it some airtime. Closer '5' sees the woodwind dance around the more sombre brass: Elgar, Powell and Pressburger and a particularly English kind of sadness, of musty drawing rooms and plates of uneaten cucumber sandwiches.
So a brave album then, but not without faults. There are times when tracks reek too much of a rejected score for Assassin's Creed III and where ambition exceeds execution, where the vocals do little beyond sit blandly atop the beats.
And is it as radical as some claim? There are hints of Goblin and Ennio Morricone if you want to look for them, as well as any number of modern minimalist composers. What may be the most interesting thing Hidden brings to the table is that it is an 'indie' music whose touchstones are film and game soundtracks and Xzibit, not The Byrds or The Beatles. How interested we are in such a notion will not be decided here, but in the record shops and at the download sites.