Hidden Treasure Amidst the Smoke and Smog: These New Puritans, Hidden

As a sombre woodwind ensemble arises from instrumental opener Time Xone like the first rays of sun over a bomb-ravaged ravine, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Jack Barnett’s These New Puritans’ second long player for yet another scorched Sufjan Stevens orchestral experimentation. Following the generics and incoherency of debut LP Beat Pyramid, Southend-on-Sea’s prime purveyors of dismantled disco were in need of a divine needle and thread to sew together the frayed seams of their expansive innovation. And as Hidden crawls out from enough sonic industrialisation to power Salford’s social clubs for a wasteful weekend, the art rock apocalypse dawns. We Want War gleams with sounds of samurai sword shimmers, as the cacophonic clashes of “six-foot Japanese Taiko drums” cascade around haunting horns and bruising beats, Three Thousand joins the dots between Victorian harpsichord hallucinations and sci-fi audio revolution, and jaggy guitars swirl haphazardly around Salem’s Heather Marlett’s eerie vocal aggravations on the arresting Attack Music. These New Puritans however do still pertain to a precarious tendency of drifting into the tuneless and soulless when straying from their Holocaustic hypotheses, as Fire-Power faintly attempts to ignite the epileptic embers of disjunction that littered Beat Pyramid, shrouding genuine ingenuity in an innocuous smog of snarling snares and mangled machinery. The incendiary choirs of Orion would be better suited to the gates of the inferno below than the stars above, adding to the bleak desperation that writhes within the record, almost encapsulating ideally the militant exasperation of war-torn dereliction. Yet through the poetics of Richard Garnett’s Where Corals Lie and the subdued synchronicity of Hologram, Barnett’s band of retrospective rebels have produced unparalleled paradisiacal perfection about as devastatingly depriving as trench foot. Never before has a record dripped with such accomplished conviction, desperation, destruction and exhaustion whilst respiring the vivacious fumes of death-ridden desolation. Along the lines of a mushroom cloud, now that These New Puritans have emerged from the mire of misunderstanding, Hidden is a perilously prolific and unnervingly unerring effort.