These New Puritans’ third album arrives in the wake of their much-acclaimed second set, 2010’s ‘Hidden’, which swanned away with NME’s album of the year accolade in its back pocket. It also earned itself a 9/10 on these pages.
But is ‘Field Of Reeds’ a worthy successor to such a striking collection as ‘Hidden’? It certainly begins beautifully, albeit slowly too, with ‘The Way I Do’, a ‘Kid A’-recalling mesh of warped vocals and relaxed percussion.
‘Fragment Two’ follows, frontman Jack Barnett channelling his inner Thom Yorke. He’s joined by Portuguese jazz singer Elisa Rodrigues on several tracks, and she adds significant emotional weight to proceedings: at the crescendo of ‘The Light In Your Name’, for example, an angsty yet majestic wave of smashed glass and sad words.
Recorded in Berlin, London and the West Country, ‘Field Of Reeds’ has seemingly absorbed its surroundings like an audio sponge. Hard drones, frantic beats and airy strings and horns fill the gaps, eternally capturing the musicians’ locale at the time.
It’s an incredibly accomplished record, no doubt about that. Brilliantly composed, planned and produced, a feast of instrumentation that mixes the classical and contemporary with style… but is the whole as great as the parts?
‘Art rock’, for lack of a better term, may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that aside it does historically suffer from bowing to its pioneers too often. ‘Spiral’ proves a highlight, but still distracts with its Björk touches and sums up a record that wears its influences a little too clearly on its sleeve.
For TNP converts this will no doubt be regarded as a masterpiece. But for the casual listener, it’s simply another solid 21st century ambient record to help while away the late hours.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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