It’s that time of year again: you’ve only just finished dislodging the ‘best of…’ lists that musos and bloggers have forced down your throat, and now they’re expecting you to swallow down a few more 2010 recommendations. Well this Future Sound will probably only upset your stomach more, as it features These New Puritans. Those familiar with TNP know they aren’t exactly new with debut album Beat Pyramid having been released in 2008. Whether you found it synth-pop perfection or pretentious art-rock nonsense (or you have no idea what I’m talking about) then you should disregard all that and listen to their new un’, Hidden. Copying a press release is the capital crime of lazy journalism, but when it is this good it doesn’t matter: “Six-foot Japanese Taiko drums, a thirteen piece brass and woodwind en-semble, sub-heavy beats, prepared piano, a children’s choir, Foley recording techniques (including a melon with cream crackers attached struck by a hammer, used to simulate the sound of a human head being smashed), and the ethereal voice of Heather Marlatt from dream-pop group Salem.”
I know you’re supposed to read these things with a pinch of salt, but that’d be like adding salt to a melting pot of lava, fireworks and a symphony orchestra. When a record claims to deliver the sound of someone’s head being caved in, as emulated by cream crackers, it’s sure as hell going to be a winner. Or batshit crazy at the very least. Hidden emerges as both; listening to the seven minute epic single that is ‘We Want War’ is a petrifying experience with its chilling choral harmonies, war drums and ominous tenors. All this when accompanied by the sheer variation of Jack Bennet’s vocals, with its unsettling withered cries one moment and aggressive rapid-fire delivery the next is incredible.
Wherever you listen to this record it has the effect of making it seem like you’re bound for middle-earth; just walking about the isles of Costcutter becomes terrifying when soundtracked to this. But it’s not all doom and gloom, and what saves this from being some sort of unofficial Lord of the Rings remix is its intricately woven classical and electronic sounds. I can’t think of another record that features oboes and bassoons among hip-hop drum beats and discordant synths. Trying to detangle all the various sounds is like some primary school music lesson where you have to indentify ‘all the different instruments’; only I’m sure this would blow any primary school teacher’s face apart.
With so many 2010 tip lists often featuring clones of last year’s popular acts – high-pitched synth-pop girl, Kate Bush remake #23 and Indie Disco act – listening to new music can be a pretty disheartening exercise. These New Puritans aren’t doing themselves any favours on this record, it’s not exactly jumping on any band-wagons I’ve heard of – maybe hijacking an intergalactic space-cruiser – but certainly nothing that’s bound to make a sure-fire seller. That’s what makes it so relieving, to hear something that actually sounds a bit more like a Future Sound. It’s 2010 after all; we should be listening to lazers, cyber-synths and exploding planets.