Thursday, March 6, 2008

More Than They Appear En Papier: These New Puritans' Beat Pyramid

Although These New Puritans have been getting attention for over a year in the blogosphere, I figured I would weigh in on their debut album Beat Pyramid, which will release in North America on March 18 on Domino (the Brits have already had the album for a month via Angular Records, which brought us the likes of Bloc Party, Art Brut and The Long Blondes - an impressive roster). On paper, These New Puritans seem inevitably like a post-punk band. Named after a song by The Fall and having their debut album produced by Gareth Jones of Wire, this band from Southend-on-Sea has been aptly compared to both bands. After listening to them, I will even add Gang of Four to this list of post-punk influences. However, TNP - who are twin brothers, Jack and George Barnett, Thomas Hein and Sophie Sleigh-Johnson - don't quite fold up neatly into a post-punk paper crane either.

TNP released a self-distributed EP in 2006 called Now Pluvial, which featured three tracks - Elvis, C 16th, and En Papier - that are now included in a modified form on Beat Pyramid. They were also involved in making a soundtrack for Hedi Slimane and the 2007 Dior Homme Show (as every music magazine has made particular mention of, attempting to link the band with some sort of fashion aesthetic). The hypnotic fifteen-minute track for this particular fashion show, Navigate, Navigate, along with a DFA remix b-side, has been released as a single in North America, preceding Beat Pyramid.

Beat Pyramid features a stunning total of sixteen tracks - of course in Pink Flag fashion, most of the tracks are less than three minutes long. In fact, several tracks clock in at less than a minute and serve more as transitions between tracks. No matter - there's always room for pretentious arty 30-second tracks of background noise. Not to mention the first and final tracks, ..ce I Will Say This Twice and I Will Say This Twi.., respectively, cleverly tie the whole album into a giant loop. While TNP have terrific minimalist/primal drumbeats, angular guitars, ticking-away hi-hats, and barking, often repetitive vocals reminiscent of Gang of Four, The Fall, and Wire, they also have synthesizer distortion filling in gaps and a more dance-punk feel than their post-punk predecessors. The frenetic track Elvis actually leans so far into this dance-punk direction, it could be a track by The Rapture. Other tracks like Doppelganger, a purely instrumental track, and Costume, which alternately plods and hovers behind a wall of sound, are slower and more shoegaze than jerky post-punk. En Papier, which begins in a jagged, minimalist manner but ultimately trails off into a spacey, distortion-filled jam, fuses both extremes of the TNP sound. To add further to TNP's eclectic sound, Infinity ytinifnI reminds me of TV on the Radio with its echoey drums and its surging, buzzing washes of sound.

As far as lyrics go, well...varied lyrics aren't exactly part of the TNP formula for me - they tend to stick to one main phrase and repeat it until it has firmly drilled through your forehead and taken up lodgings in the folds of your brain matter (example: "What's your favourite number and what does it mean?" from Numerology (AKA Numbers) and "Four of your pounds, cha, cha, cha, cha" from £4). I read somewhere that their lyrics are abstract and literary, but I think they're abstract like a calculus textbook. Not necessarily a bad thing - calculus can be crazy.

Are they worthy of all the buzz? I think they're worthy of at least two thirds of it. I look forward to hear how they develop over time (they're young yet) because they obviously don't fit into a neat trendy category like New Rave, nor have they taken the path of zero resistance (AKA the post-Libertines path). Their music is a cacophony of genres and more experimental than many of their peers. At the very least, you have to give them credit for having the credible influences they do. They are spawned from the same scene as The Horrors, but while The Horrors are a string of goth paper dolls, These New Puritans are like one of those paper fortune tellers you make as a child - you never quite know what you're going to get.

Elvis - These New Puritans

En Papier - These New Puritans

Costume - These New Puritans

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