these new puritans hidden
  • WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31, 2010

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Abandoning their repetition of numbers for bass clarinets and brilliant orchestral swoons, These New Puritans have crafted a record of both haunting progressions and unsettling beauty. It has always been tough to mistake them for "light listening" but now more than ever they've written songs like cement shoes in the sea of intensity. The beginning of Hidden sounds more like a 20th century opera than a rock record, but TNP quickly switch gears into a rhythmic pulsation worthy of the legends of Brit-rock, complete with ominous low-tone verse and a riff that sounds both brutally primitive and futuristic. Think cave-men with moonraker lasers.

Right off the bat, cries of "freedom" on first song "We Want War" gives the entire thing an epic coloring (I mean come ON. 'We want war' is epic unto itself). The span of the songs subject material and sharp focus continues this trend of foreboding, battle cries by practically conjuring images of Final Fantasy VII while taunting us with violent chord shifts, punctuated by choral and instrumental breaks. "Three-Thousand" is a marching band fight song for dragon warriors. "Hologram" is a time warp/post-modern piano sonata. "Attack Music" is terrifying and omnipotent. "Orion" is an opus fit for a hero. I could play this game all day.

The best parts of Hidden are the hair-raising shifts that often pop up like monsters. The name of the record is justified for many reason, but the main one in my mind is how well they tie together the "Time Xone" theme throughout the records various motifs. If expectation is the foundation of your musical taste, run for the sanctuary, because TNP play with preconceptions of tempo and resolution like a bucket of Lego bricks.

While synth plays an undeniable part in the constructions of Hidden, they are more humanoid than robotic, and thus play into the orchestral feel. The use of computers in such an organic manner is not uncommon, but here it feels fresh; TNP take simple refrains, ones that sound a lot like their contemporaries, and use various blends of digital and live instrumentations to give them several different layers of meaning. "White Chords" could be a very different song just listening to the vocal track, but the violent tumult of increasing and decreasing volumes around it trade the innocent arc for storm clouds. "5", the epilogue, a variation of the "Orion" chant (chilling), leaves us wondering if we won the war.

The themes and motifs make Hidden as a whole greater than the sum of its parts. It's an album that builds itself from the ground to block out the sun, only to disappear into thin air as panic takes hold. Those looking for quick three minute bursts of disposable energy will be confused and probably frightened by TNP and their bombastic disposition. But for those looking for something as engaging and mysterious as a dark foray into the sea, Hidden is your submarine. -joe puglisi

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MP3:"Orion" - Hidden
Concert: These New Puritans at SXSW 2008
These New Puritans on Myspace

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