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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Hidden’ is purely imaginative

    These New Puritans

    Hidden

    Secretly Canadian

    Released March 2, 2010

    Score: A-

    Hidden is an orgy of sound. With so many different instruments and vocalists being used, it’s nearly impossible to identify all of them. The songs on Hidden are chaotic, humbling, and examples of deeply involved music from a band that does not appear to understand the word “”genre.”” With Hidden, British art-rockers These New Puritans have crafted an album that is as symphonic as it is accessible. It’s also the first must-have album of 2010.

    The breadth of instrumental sampling on Hidden is staggering. The anthemic “”We Want War”” samples brass, woodwinds, a backing choir and Japanese taiko drums. If this doesn’t sound impressive, you should know that the taiko drums used on Hidden are six feet tall. The result is a song that exudes noticeable atmosphere. On kissing cousin, “”Attack Music,”” These New Puritans fuses jagged guitar with sampling of sword slashes and a sub-heavy drone. There’s nothing subtle about this sort of musical stranglehold, but there’s nothing faulty in the band’s presentation.

    The ambitious scope of musicianship succeeds in part because of the album’s even-handed production. Handled by frontman Jack Barnett and British post-rock legend Graham Sutton, the production guides the sonically dense melodies through the tricky territory of experimentation. Barnett’s vocals reside calmly behind layers of sampled and live instrumentation. On “”Drum Courts — Where Corals Lie,”” Barnett’s gentle hissing fades behind the onslaught of drums and breezy woodwinds, coasting through countless modulations and tempo shifts.

    With songs reaching the seven minute mark, expansive orchestration and the moniker of “”art-rockers,”” Hidden might appear daunting. However, These New Puritans fuel their songs with ample hooks and pop sensibility to assuage even the most averse listeners. “”White Chords”” has as simple a structure as anything on the radio, but its hypnotic blips and organic drum claps belie a deeper understanding of harmony. Similarly, the duality of mood on “”Orion”” presents listeners with a modest dichotomy between sinister drumming and a catchy dance rhythm.

    For all its bravado, Hidden is not without understatement. Songs “”Hologram”” and “”Three Thousand”” are more subdued arrangements. They are still technically proficient, yet they lack the urgency of the album’s standouts.

    For an album with a sample of a man striking a watermelon covered in crackers with a hammer, Hidden is remarkably grounded. Despite its weighty litany of instruments, Hidden is composed of music that experiments with exotic instrumentation and complex melodies, without coming off as pretentious. This is art at its highest musical form. But it’s also rock.

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