Release Date: Mar 22, 2019
Record label: Infectious
It is however a statement that could also be used to characterise These New Puritans ' approach to creation. Perennially challenging themselves, let alone their audience, These New Puritans remain as ambitious, fearless and breathtaking as before on their fourth studio record.. Inside The Rose sonically stands proudly between 2010's Hidden and 2013's Field Of Reeds.
A lot of people don't know what to make of These New Puritans. The trajectory of their career has seen them become ever more "experimental," something of a dirty word in contemporary musical parlance. However, those who have stuck with the band have been richly rewarded over the last few years, with the fantastic Field of Reeds (2013) followed up by the majestically expansive live rendition, 2014's Expanded (Live at the Barbican).
Since debuting with the distressed post-punk of 2008's Beat Pyramid, These New Puritans have made a tradition out of reinvention, approaching composition from surprising new angles and channeling their innate sense of drama into each new evolution. The project of twin brothers Jack and George Barnett, the group were still in their teens when they began releasing music, yet they effused ambition and taste well beyond their years. That ambition remains in play on Inside the Rose, the band's fourth full-length release.
You get the sense that recording a These New Puritans album is an agonising process. For all its beauty and wonder, there's something tense about the music they create - an uneasy balance that never dissipates, no matter how familiar you become with their work. Rather, it ensures that their records sit in a liminal state, refusing to wholly reveal themselves, yet always reaching out as if imparting some secret knowledge you can never hope to glean anywhere else.
What if the Knife had peaked in the heyday of MTV Unplugged? What if James Blake and Scott Walker co-produced an Oliver Sim solo album? What if someone slipped a Nine Inch Nails CD to those singing monks from the '90s? Such are the undreamed-of questions answered, at various times, by Inside the Rose, the fourth studio album by Essex shape-shifters These New Puritans, whose website summary describes them, with maddening understatement, as "an English experimental music group whose music is not easily categorized. " Still, attempts have been made. Twin brothers Jack and George Barnett--now the group's sole members, following a decade of periodic collaboration with Thomas Hein, Sophie Sleigh-Johnson, and a 35-piece orchestra--started by exorcising their most evident influences: twitchy UK post-rave acts like Aphex Twin, itchy UK post-punk bands like the Fall, and caressing UK post-rockers like Bark Psychosis.
It's never been riskier to leave long periods of silence between your records. With the half-life of entertainers and artists getting shorter and shorter, many understandably fall into the pattern of constant, drip-drip activity: surprise announcements, one-off collaborations, deluxe re-issues, hot-topic interviews, anything to stay in the Most Read lists. Not so These New Puritans: it is now six years since the arty Southend post-punk troupe released their vaunted third album Field of Reeds, and in the meantime we have heard next to nothing.
These New Puritans aren't exactly a jokey band, but the fact that they're on a label called Infectious Music is worth a chuckle. While Twin brothers Jack and George Barnett's music is by no means inaccessible, it's not meant to be hummed along to or get stuck in your head while in line at the bank. 2013's Field of Reeds completed their transition from chaotic post-punkers to art rock mavericks.
There’s always been something slightly impenetrable about These New Puritans - the experimental project of brothers Jack and George Barnett. Shapeshifting with every release, aside from actually-quite-fun debut ‘Beat Pyramid’, theirs is music designed to make you work; complex and tangential, never let it be said that TNP are satisfied with an easy listen. Which is obvious fine, and often brilliant, except when the loftyness threatens to outweigh any kind of actual pleasure.
There's a gothic tint to These New Puritans' take on pop, but like a sub-par Depeche Mode, it's lacking in brightness or brilliance When These New Puritans emerged in the latter part of the ’00s, their bone-snapping dynamics were their greatest asset. A wilfully obtuse outlier to indie's simpler excesses, the group were unashamed in their shock factor. Over the years, they've sanded down those edges, subsequent records shifting their focus ever-closer to that of a classically-influenced, baroque pop outfit - one more interested in twisting the rulebook's spine than shredding the whole thing and eating the confetti that ensues.
What does a musical collective do when, sonically, aesthetically, artistically, they've left all their peers trailing in the dust, but make a music that'd never be allowed into the mainstream? This is what has faced These New Puritans in the long gap since the release of Field Of Reeds, arguably the most ambitious album recorded in the UK over the past decade. You'd be forgiven for thinking that they might have run out of road, never due to their own failings but because their aspiration and bloody-mindedness might have ruled them out of the way the music industry currently works. This isn't the 90s, and you can't 'do a Radiohead' any more, after all.
A mid the round of interviews to promote These New Puritans' fourth studio album, an intriguing detail emerged. At some juncture during its lengthy gestation, George Barnett - who with his twin brother Jack now comprises These New Puritans, once a four-piece - had assured the band's record label that what they were working on was "the most commercial thing ever". This, for anyone with a passing knowledge of the band's output over the last decade, would constitute a fairly dramatic shift in priorities.
Recorded in an industrial, unsparing bit of Berlin, 'Inside the Rose' is beloved English eccentrics These New Puritans' first release in six years. It quickly emerges as their most direct and focused work yet, which at its best is immensely powerful but whose sheer force does lend itself to a certain indistinctness. It's high on drama, as on 'Anti-Gravity' and 'Beyond Black Suns', with that ever-so insistent bass drum and on which Jack Barnett reassumes his position as contemporary music's king of the spectral drawl.