Review: These New Puritans – Field of Reeds
Published on August 21st, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
An awful lot has been written about just how much of a departure Field of Reeds is for These New Puritans, and how various people feel about this.
Given the radical alterations undertaken from their 2008 debut Beat Pyramid to 2010 follow-up Hidden, this latest transmogrification feels a little flimsy in the role of main talking point.
After all, there are so many to choose from: Jack Barnett’s (deliberately?) misleading “Disney pop” prophesy, for one, and the roping in of a children’s choir, a hawk and the lowest bass voice in Britain.
So storied and mythologised is Field of Reeds already that it would have been a downright dereliction of duty for These New Puritans to deliver anything less than a classic-in-the-making. Thankfully, they’ve made it.
If Talk Talk were zapped by Zappa and sprinkled with North Sea Radio Orchestra, you’d be at least some way towards an acceptable description of Field of Reeds. It’s such a remarkable piece of work unto itself, though, that it scarcely feels worthwhile trying to summon precedents.
From Barnett’s detached, sleepwalking vocals through to the mystery-enshrouded music itself, These New Puritans have that rare knack for making everything they do sound conceivably either profoundly studied or completely accidental.
It’s all so naturally unique and downright perfect-sounding that any given moment could just as conceivably have arisen at the first attempt as the thousandth.
Did they slave over this, or does everything they touch just turn to gold? Do we even want to know?
Pretty much instantly, Field of Reeds announces itself as one of those great ‘lulling’ albums, the likes of which can induce sleep by dint of enchantment as opposed to boredom.
You might have your own, but for Rocksucker it’s LPs like Kind of Blue, Five Leaves Left and Spirit of Eden. Field of Reeds…*gulp*…sits snugly alongside these hallowed works.
Such are its magical properties that, when you put it on in public, the world around you just seems to melt away like some kind of Donnie Darko fantasy. It’s got that Boards of Canada-esque ‘creepy sepia tint’ – or ‘creepia tint’, as we’d like to be so bold as to dub it – but the sinister moments are tempered by the intense sense of wonder of it all.
Field of Reeds gets underway with a ‘half-remembered’ version of Bacharach and David’s “This Guy’s in Love With You” sung by fado singer Elisa Rodrigues, whose voice floats ghostishly in the background before succumbing to – and subsequently reemerging from – a rushing ecstasy of a horn section.
A truly breathtaking introduction, then, and there’s no let-up in quality. “V (Island Song)” is a particularly stunning showcase of These New Puritans’s aptitude for beauty and portentousness, and for infusing each with a downright otherworldly air of mystery.
We could go on and on about the nightmarish application of children’s choir and operatically wailing backing vocals to “Spiral”, the enraptured prog-jazz of “Nothing Else”, the dolorous, heaving cello and unusual layout of “Dream”…but your time would be better spent immersing yourself in it rather than merely reading about it.
One priceless function of great art is its ability to transpose a dreamlike state into the ‘real’ world. In this respect, Field of Reeds is great art, disquieting yet mesmerising like one of those dreams that stays with you throughout the next day without your ever really being able to describe it in any kind of satisfactory detail.
This one’s best left to your ears.
Field of Reeds is out now on Infectious Records.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!