After a period of silence following the release and touring of their acclaimed second album, Hidden, These New Puritans make their highly anticipated return with Field of Reeds, their first for new label Infectious Music. The album will be released on 2x12" vinyl, CD and digital download on 10 June 2013.
Recorded in a series of intensive sessions between April and November 2012, with production duties once again shared by Graham Sutton (Bark Psychosis) and the band's Jack Barnett, Field of Reeds represents another uncompromising shift from a band without peer.
Field of Reeds - tracklisting
1. This Guy's In Love With You
2. Fragment Two
3. The Light In Your Name
4. V (Island Song)
6. Organ Eternal
7. Nothing Else
9. Field of Reeds
Jack began writing the material in 2011, while the band were staging their celebrated Hidden Live shows, in a year that became marked by prolonged legal negotiations. Having taught himself to arrange and notate the brass, woodwind, and percussion parts for Hidden, Jack further utilised these skills on Field of Reeds, with every part fully scored and arranged before recording commenced. Only the band and production team heard the album before it was finished.
The first recording sessions took place at Studio P4 Funkhaus Nalepastraáe, a former West German radio complex in Berlin, with renowned conductor Andr' de Ridder - a key player in Hidden Live - leading the ensemble. Further sessions followed in London and the West Country. Virtually every sound heard on the album is as it was played, with edits used only to tweak performances using played material and never 'copied and pasted', as is common practice in most modern music.
"I like the sense with this music that you are surrounded by people playing instruments," Jack says. "You can hear someone move or breathe before they begin playing."
This desire to capture the perfect performance would lead on occasion to distress among the musicians. "For the song Fragment Two," Jack says, "George drumming is take #76." Elsewhere, a full day was spent smashing panes of glass for Light In Your Name.
Opening track This Guy's In Love With You is framed around a digital field recording of a woman's half-remembered interpretation of the Bacharach and David classic track of the same name, sang by Herb Alpert in 1968, while several others make imaginative use of the Magnetic Resonator Piano invented by Professor Andrew McPherson of the Centre for Digital Music at Queen Mary, University of London.
"He was kind enough to let us use his invention after a friend of Graham's put us in touch," Jack says. "It's a kind of torture device for pianos, using optics and magnets. A lot of sounds that you might think are electronic or synthetic are actually made by this. This is the first time it's been used outside a relatively small number of contemporary classical performances."
Among the guests on the album are basso profundo Adrian Peacock, renowned British jazz trumpeter Henry Lowther, Dutch contemporary composer Michel van der Aa and Swedish soundtrack arranger Hans Ek. Several songs feature Portuguese jazz singer Elisa Rodrigues, whose voice recalls a combination of her namesake, Amalia Rodrigues, and Billie Holiday. Respected mixing engineer Mark 'Spike' Stent mixed the record.
The songs on Field of Reeds are more intimate, melodic and personal than the band's previous work, covering subjects such as "hope, despair, love - those kinds of things".
"I tried to make all the lyrics and songs mean something, something very specific; I don't like it when you're allowed to be singing about nothing in particular - I was inspired by people like Stephen Sondheim, Oscar Hammerstein, Kurt Weill," Jack says. "The device at the end of Light In Your Name, where the lyric splits into the two singers' perspectives, is nicked from my favourite song, Send In The Clowns by Stephen Sondheim."
These New Puritans - live
08 June - Tokyo, Garden Hall, Hostess Club Weekender
11 June - Los Angeles, Hollywood Bowl (supporting Bj"rk)
17 June - Paris, Caf' De La Danse
19 June - London, Heaven
26 June - Berlin, Heimathafen Neuk"lln