These New Puritans initially came out amongst a flurry of post-punk influenced bands loosely associated with the nu-rave tag back in 2006. Sometime after their first album, Beat Pyramid, came out it felt a little like they were already irrelevant as far as I was concerned. It's therefore as much a surprise to me as anyone that Field Of Reeds, their third album, is one of the most exciting and innovative albums I've heard this year.
From the bizarre opening - a warped cover of Herb Alpert's lovely 'This Guy's In Love With You' - it is clear something here is different. There is a jazz-like quality to the instrumentation, warm horns and woodwind instruments give an unanticipated depth of sound as female Portuguese vocalist Elisa Rodrigues sings a cover in a way that suggests she has never heard the original.
Field Of Reeds is at times incredibly tense, the sound of something inside vocalist Jack Barnett's head about to snap. But it never quite does - the music broods and threatens but holds back, and the fullness of the instrumentation lends Field Of Reeds a sense of heightened drama. 'V (Island Song)' builds and flows, moving in a tidal fashion with a series of intense and then more subdued moments over its near 10-minute length. The strings encapsulate a haunting refrain that encircles and traps the band and listener like a slow-forming whirlpool.
There is a clear effort involved in the creation of this album yet it is surprising just how human and alive it feels. The attention to production and detail never risks overwhelming the actual music and only serves to strengthen the delivery. It lifts These New Puritans towards greatness, providing a level of mass they previously lacked.
'Spiral' and 'Organ Eternal' demonstrate this weight best, in its most rounded and realised form. 'Spiral' uses the many instruments that feature across the album to make a slow, creeping piece of music with sense of freeform experimentalism in a structure that just gently unravels. 'Organ Eternal' uses its titular instrument to form a warm electronic wrapper around a swirling track with some of the best orchestrated strings on the whole album. It is then quickly followed by the lonely jazz intro of 'Nothing Else', and by this point it is all already so unlike anything else you will hear from anyone else this year that it is very hard not to be somewhat bowled over.