Having already shown themselves to be one of Britain’s most interesting bands with 2010s markedly percussive and experimental album Hidden, These New Puritans continue to develop, with their latest album Fields of Reeds adopting neoclassical threads to create one of the most sonically interesting albums of the year so far. They make the transition into the classical realm with assured ease, bringing in minimalism and subtly encroaching electronics, managing to be smart but never showy in execution. Drums are used sparingly, like a string section adding weight to the emotional core, and hardly feature in the albums second half, in fact the piano seems to be the most consistent instrument, often providing the backbone for the songs.
The first track they revealed before the albums release, Fragment Two, centres around the piano and the voice of band leader and main vocalist Jack Barnett, his imperfect delivery adds character to the track as it slowly develops allowing drums and arrangements build around him. V (Island Song) opens with sparse piano and evocative vocals. As it develops a melody forms together out of the seemingly disparate keys, as a strange warped synthesizer enters along with driving drums, providing one of the most direct moments within the albums longest track. Its a track that epitomises the band's bold composition and ear for interesting instruments as the track progresses taking unexpected diversions over its journey.
Spiral includes multiple vocalists taking over from one another, including a choir of children, whilst Dream also uses vocals to startling effect with Portuguese jazz singer Elisa Rodrigues giving in intimate performance surrounded by spectral and spaced arrangements reminiscent of the quieter moments of the stargazing jazz of Sun-Ra. The propulsive Organ Eternal comes across as simple and complex in equal measure, with clever production and what sounds like the manipulated voice, somewhere between that of a child and a whale. You can hear the influence of the album's producer Graham Sutton, and his previous band, the pioneering post-rock group Bark Psychosis, in the way they brought in elements of jazz, ambient and minimalism into their sound.
Despite frequent time signature changes and obscure instruments it never feels inaccessible with some of the most effective moments being when they use simple piano melodies. Proving themselves to be adventurous and bold, These New Puritans have made themselves into a genuinely unique act that defies easy classification, which is a rare thing in this day and age, and it'll be interesting to see where they go next.