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. Opener ‘Infinity Vibraphones’ trembles expectantly with nervous tension, thought it’s not a stygian affair despite its refrain of “let’s go away to the underworld”. At the other end, ‘Six’ is a fragment of tip-toeing beauty.
‘Inside The Rose’ manages to pull off the feat of being at once calculated, carefully programmed and sounding ‘natural’. In fact, it was occasionally dreamed (‘Where the Trees Are on Fire’). Rarely does it feel extraneous. Instead, it’s quite homogeneous, with certain timbres popping up again and again, underpinned by George Barnett’s commanding drumwork. This single-mindedness coincides with the group becoming a duo again.
Whilst they might sometimes be held to an evocation of a sort of Essex eeriness, of reeds, marshes, and, here, fire and will-o’-the-wisps, this feels more rootless. What presides, the sexual metaphor of the title aside, is a constant thread of escape, demands to “take me far away” or simply “accelerate”, “into the black forever” on ‘Into The Fire’. Basically, what you’d expect given they’ve mentioned the kind of Serious Art that transcends and challenges its time – “Tarkovsky, Bacon and Blake” etc.
If you had to make comparisons, you might say it’s a bit like Coil or Current 93 (the title track features some spoken word from David Tibet), a bit Depeche Mode-y and Talk Talk-y. But the Barnett twins’ musical universe is ultimately quite a hermetic one which escapes facile categorisation.
Accordingly, a line from ‘A–R–P’ sticks out: “let this music be a kind of a paradise, a kind of nightmare, a kind of I don’t care...”
Words: Wilf Skinner
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