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Album Review

by These New Puritans

Domino Records/EMI

Review Date
10th May 2010
Reviewed by
Gareth Meade

Let’s just get this out of the way; Hidden is not going to be to everyone’s taste. As well as being dense and overtly theatrical, it also seriously stretches the boundaries of what actually constitutes music. Consequently it’s understandable why this album could be easily misunderstood. But even accepting that this may be the case, it’s hard to deny that Hidden is a formidable achievement.

Which I accept doesn’t mean this is a good album. What does make it good, even great, is how it holds together as a fluid piece of work, despite the overabundance of inspiration flowing through its veins. Primary Puritan Jack Barnett has somehow combined his classical nous with his love of hip hop and electronic music to create something that should be incongruent, but isn’t. In his hands, taiko drums, synthesisers, electric guitar and Foley techniques (such as knives being sharpened on ‘Three-Thousand’) make a digestible commotion, rather than an unlistenable one. In some ways, it’s as if Radiohead’s Kid A helped pave the way for musicians to be this daring, but at the same time Radiohead have never been this successfully subversive.

Hidden’s centrepieces are the physically affecting outbursts of ‘We Want War’, ‘Attack Music’ and ‘Orion’, which are the best examples of everything being thrown into a composition only to come out as something wholly original and compelling. Perhaps most importantly though, they are incredible songs, not just avant-garde constructions that happen to have been made with musical instruments. Their grounding is in bass-heavy percussion that lends them the aforementioned association with hip hop and electronica, but they also somehow defy being categorised as either of those genres.

While the majority of the songs on Hidden operate along similar lines, they do so with varying levels of success. ‘Drum Courts-Where Corals Lie’ is comfortably skipped upon repeat listens to the album, while ‘Time Xone’ is a pleasant prelude, but can similarly be put aside to get to the meatier material. ‘Hologram’ is the most unexpected of the 11 songs, and its softer approach is a welcome addition to the album. It’s almost reminiscent of a Field Music song, only with a lot less cheer than that suggests.

To reiterate my point from the start, there are people who will think that all of that sounds incredibly pretentious and they won’t even want to give Hidden a chance. But this album surges with a unique talent that I think everyone should find awe-inspiring. Hidden is a triumph of modern music.

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