Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

These New Puritans create a thorough and complete aggressive art vision

February 26, 2010

When I’m stressed, I have terrible nightmares. I have methods of combating them, but none of those methods include listening to These New PuritansHidden. The album sounds like the soundtrack to a nightmare. The music is not intentionally horror-themed, but it is the most ominous, terrifying music I’ve heard in years.

These New Puritans are not a normal band. Their sound could loosely be described as electronic, as they traffic in beats, rhythms, synthesizers and electronic noises. But the amount of live instruments they use transcends the term electronic; there are several types of drums, guitars, brass bands, and more. Instead, they create a musical world, where everything works according to how they envision it. This isn’t a rebellion-minded rock band; this is what These New Puritans thinks a rebellious-minded rock band should sound like. And boy, is it terrifying.

The creepiest parts of this album are in the juxtaposition of heavily rhythmic drums against choral arrangements. The drum rhythms are confrontational and violent, placed against sounds that otherwise would not be considered harmful. The terrifying “Attack Music” includes the sounds of actual knives scraping together placed against sounds like a clarinet, bassoon, modified voices, and group speaking/singing. “We Want War” features ominous chants of the title against the sounds of a coming battle. This would be the best battle rap beat of all time. “Orion” is almost “Attack Music” reprised, as the synthesized vocals play a very similar role and the music is similarly distressing.

“Fire – power” is less distressing and just plain cool; the competing rhythms and melodies feel like MGMT trapped in a gunfight. “Canticle” is a short instrumental for wind instruments that serves as a breather before jumping back into the aggression with “Drum Courts – Where the Corals Lie,” which is one of the strangest compositions in the whole album. An incredibly low synth accentuates a continuous tom roll, which is then covered by an orchestra that slowly builds in volume. There’s also a whispered rap happening over all of this. Then everything stops and there’s a woodwind duet accentuated by a 8-bit video game noise.

If that last description makes you want to hear the album, this is going to be a great thing for you. If it makes you scratch your head and wonder why you’d want to listen to it, you’ve got your answer. I straight-up don’t like this album; its post-apocalyptic vision stresses me out. But the reason it’s able to stress me out is that its vision is so thoroughly and perfectly constructed. Other than the perplexing sunshine-and-unicorns dream sequence that is “Hologram,” this is a masterfully constructed experimental art album.

These New Puritans built off everything and nothing when they constructed this album; none of these ideas are brand new, but I am 100% that no one has ever combined them in this way before.

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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