These New Puritans’ latest art rock opus, Hidden, grabs you like an angular installation of Banks Violette proportions (both minimal and epic at once), yet built with orchestra and electronics rather than meager fiberglass and fluorescent tubes.  In the hands of singer/frontman Jack Barnett, it’s a force to be reckoned with, with song “We Want War” at the epicenter of this gentleman’s battle.  Intriguing whispers and dagger-like commands slice their way into the songs alongside a brimstone of percussion, keyboards and woodwind instruments.  It’s a cerebral, physical album that’s challenging, but at points, even meditative, since the band’s symphonic wit is constantly at play, finding patches of respite within the music’s most cathartic moments.

This album is addictive, I must say.  Were you exalted when it was finally finished?  It seems as if it must have been quite the undertaking, given its “big” and all-encompassing sound.

It was a good feeling when it was finished, but really, I was more caught up in getting it ready for release, producing the scorebook, making sure the artwork was getting done and things like that. I don’t like the feeling of not working on music so I just started on writing the next, [third] album.

Hidden is quite an epic departure from your debut album.  How and when did the album first start to evolve into the more experimental, classically-minded/tribal work it is?

I was writing a lot of music for myself that involved woodwind ensembles. and I was writing These New Puritans music. Then I realised that they could be the same thing. so all the barriers broke down and that made it more interesting for us, and more fun.

In other words, has interest in melding classical music and organic instrumentation with your modern sound been brewing in the collective mind of TNP since the beginning, but you were waiting for the right time to let it out?

There was no cynical or conscious effort to meld things together, this is just the music I was writing. but yes, this music has been developing for a while. Beat Pyramid was a very specific idea and very different to Hidden. and vice versa. I’m sure the next one will also be very different.

Have any of you had a background in classical music and world percussion or are you self-taught (as to your symphonic capabilities)?

No, I had to teach myself in order to write this album.

While writing the album, did you think of it in terms of a whole work or as connected series of separate songs that stand on their own?  It seems such an entity to itself like a soundtrack, it’s the kind of work that most (myself included) seem happy to hear in full and on headphones, rather than as a series of separate singles.

That’s just the way we write music, we can’t help it. Hopefully it works both ways. but yes, you really have to listen from start to finish to pick up on everything musically. I hope people still do that!

Was this a more difficult album to make than your debut given all the specific, more “finicky” instruments used, from oboe to bassoon?

It was quite complicated to record. there was a lot of organization, which is all part of the fun. Writing music is never difficult – it’s just fun – but recording can be stressful as you try to do justice to the ideas. Actually, recording the woodwind and brass (no oboes! I hate oboes!) was very easy; we recorded about half the album in six hours. We flew to Prague and recorded all the ensemble brass and woodwind in that amount of time. It was a great experience, [yet] it was a combination of having to do it like that because time = money, but it was also great; no self-indulgent six-month studio sessions!

In phrase repetitions and the music surrounding lyrics like “I’m in the Fire” from “Fire” I feel a certain affinity to bands like Einsturzende or Can and Liars.  Were you interested in melding more experimental music like that into your sound?

Not really. That’s the world of rich, old men. They’ve had their history. I’m sure it’s all good music but I think there are other things to be interested in, things that are more productive to be interested in. I like a lot of R&B and dancehall, and also things like William Byrd and Alban Berg. I think we’re quite separate from those bands.  Nowadays, pop is stranger than the experimental. It would be more interesting if I professed a love of Jamie Cullum than if I professed a love of the Velvet Underground!

Would you ever want to open for Gang of Four or Public Image Ltd.?
No, [neither].  I’m not a fan of those bands. I prefer the present, and also the future.

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