Published Nov 05, 2013In 2010, second record Hidden elevated These New Puritans from UK curiosities to burgeoning national treasures. Somehow timeless yet unmistakably modern, it plundered improbably vast material that bypassed Western rock mythology to establish a medieval dancehall in which Wayne Wonder and Benjamin Britten constitute equally valid source material. The band were — as chanted on "Three Thousand" — "slicing through time" with martial virtuosity.
Its follow-up is easily their least austere release, a bucolic record that evokes late Talk Talk witnessing a metropolitan apocalypse. It's a masterpiece of tense interplay between singer Jack Barnett and Portuguese guest vocalist Elisa Rodrigues, their perfect climaxes like tug-of-wars between the mundane and sublime. Rodrigues' voice, accustomed to the pace of galumphing jazz, is here unsettled by ambiguous rhythms, her centre spun out in wide arcs. Barnett, meanwhile, mumbles reluctantly, singing as if lucidity were superfluous or forbidden. After "Organ Eternal" spirals skywards, the record's post-industrial phase draws out a gloaming that will outlast some attention spans, but rewards patience. "I pray that just for one minute, nonsense and meaning swap places," sings Rodrigues in "Nothing Else," the record's subject again yielding to the allure of absurdity and disorder. Indeed, leaving Field of Reeds, there's little to be sure of but its magnificent beauty. (PIAS)