IT’S SO RARE to encounter an album that combines characteristics of Romantic music with beats that sound like they come off a Wu-Tang Clan album. With These New Puritan’s 2010 second album, you had that and more. Hidden was hardly a commercial hit (unless you count the fact the NME named it the best album of 2010), more like a combination of the some of the most niche things you could encounter in modern music.
It goes without saying that Hidden is certainly a spectacle; with its larger than life beats, full wind and brass orchestra, choir of children and Jack Barnett’s extremely English vocals. Take ‘We Want War’, with its rhythmic clicks and slaps and smooth orchestral movements, it’s unusual, and actually enjoyable. It’s a similar situation with ‘Attack Music’, except with the beats replaced with gun shots and a clarinet chirping in every now and then. Compare these to opener ‘Time Xone’, which is entirely comprised of beautifully composed orchestral music, and the interlude ‘Canticle’, which breaks up these rough episodes with slow moving sections.
With this in mind, it seems like Hidden can’t decide what it wants to be. It has all the makings of an obvious epic, but some parts just don’t gel. Does it want to be Aphex Twin or Arcade Fire? Wu-Tang Clan or Skrillex? Even 5 years after its initial release, it still doesn’t seem quite right. It feels like an album for the past, but also very much for the future. Listening to this album and baring in mind that it came out 5 years ago, you can definitely here aspects of EDM, a genre that was in the process of being commercialised, but also there are points where the Electronic music sounds like ‘Windowlicker’.
Perhaps then, we’re not ready for this? Obviously the ol’ Classical/Rock music hybrid has been plenty of times, as well as the Electronic/Rock hybrid (perhaps most recently in the Mainstream with Kasabian’s 48:13) but nothing of this magnitude has been notably attempted. Perhaps this is because it’s near impossible to perform this album live. You couldn’t expect the band to drag around a wind orchestra and choir to 12 dates around the country.
One thing to note about the album is the attention to detail put in by the band. Sure, you’ve got those big (nay, massive) drum beats by the band, but underneath this harsh exterior lays a tender melody that, when stripped bare, can reach even the most difficult listener. While Barnett’s voice may not be the grandest of things, his naive tone adds some innocence to the dark tones.
So was this the best album of 2010? Well from a year that gave us The Suburbs, Teen Dream, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, This Is Happening, High Violet and Halcyon Digest, it’s hard to say. If anything, Hidden gave us an insight into how music could be done unlike anything else at the time. The sheer scale of this album is unbelievable, and at times a little overwhelming. Maybe the music world needs a few more years to catch up with Jack Barnett’s way of thinking, to actually really get what was constructed here.
(Editor’s Note: Please excuse the ‘The Originals’ background for the video.)
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