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Album Review
Field Of Reeds

Field Of Reeds
by These New Puritans

Infectious Music

Review Date
17th July 2013
Reviewed by
Vincent Michaelsen

These New Puritans' first album was provocative by nature. Inspiring interaction, its agitated guitar and vocals echoed that of British post-punk. Follow up, Hidden, moved away from such well-trodden paths. Bringing in new sounds and influences, that album delivered a fresh approach to classical instrumentation and composition, as featured in the popular single 'We Want War'. But, if the distance between those records felt like a jump, getting to the far less social Field Of Reeds is, well, a very enormous leap. Here, These New Puritans work with a number of orchestral composers, conductors and a host of session musicians to deliver an album equal parts rich, stark and expansive.

Field Of Reeds is by no means an easy record to get onside with. Right throughout it's a very weighty affair. The relatively spritely piano tune that opens 'Fragment Two' and the dark melodies of 'V (Island Song)' and 'Organ Eternal' bring some hooks to the record, but that's about it. At times it can sound a bit like a load of academic waffle. The opening track feels a lot like the opening scene of a film. It's soft and sweet, lending itself to cinematic images of a bohemian apartment, sunrays streaming through whilst yellowed leaves swirl outside in the autumn wind. That's not so surprising given the crew These New Puritans brought on board for the album, but it still comes off as a little self-serious.

Getting over that, there's a lot of beauty to be enjoyed here. At the album’s most fragile points during the likes of 'The Light In Your Name', 'V (Island Song)' and 'Dream', the listener gets a sense that there’s very little holding things together. A lapse in the tense vocals of Jack Barnett and Elisa Rodrigues could easily deflate an entire track.

What may be the best part of Field Of Reeds though is its lack of any consistent fallback instrumentation. In the record’s nine tracks there is very little sense of repetition. With a clear potential for grandiose embellishment at hand, Barnett insisted during recording on a set limit to how many instruments could play at any one time. In combination with the very minimal usage of any percussion, this has created an intense and vast soundscape that becomes more interesting with every listen.

All albums have a time or place where they work best or are suited to. Field Of Reeds works in almost none of the usual zones. Unaware of what this record would be, I first listened to it trying to do regular after-work things, to complete failure. This isn't an album for washing the dishes to, nor for eating dinner to, or even as background music whilst wasting time in your chosen manner. It does demand some attention. So, take an hour, lie back, headphones on, and enjoy it at its best.

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