The Southend-on-Sea four-piece continue to shun their art-rock, nu-rave tag, experimenting with classical instrumentation, and fusing divergent genres with inspirational results.
If it's true that These New Puritans stood out from the hipster crowd of electronic indie rockers with their 2008 debut 'Beat Pyramid', it's even more so the case on its follow up. A veritable clash of styles and influences, the interplay between modern classical, dancehall, electronica and nu-rave is bravely accomplished, just experimental enough to be constantly intriguing, but never enough to alienate.
An avant-garde bassoon composition gives a somewhat unexpected introduction to 'Hidden', paving the way for things to come, as this peculiar yet beautiful instrument is to be heard at every turn. But it's when These New Puritans' mood-inducing electronics come into play that the full impact of 'Hidden' truly hits home. The combination of beat-heavy electronica with large choral accompaniments is not unlike Intimacy era Bloc Party, and while adding children's voices to the mix can be a difficult thing to do successfully, on 'Hidden' they are always sinister and unsettling, and only sound slightly clichéd on 'Attack Music', which is thankfully redeemed by dissonant synths and colossal pounding.
A slight change of tone comes with the jazzy piano of 'Hologram' which interacts in a milder manner with those bassoons and some gentle bells. The repetitious refrain and gritty guitars of 'Fire Power' make it the most marketable track here, in an underground sort of way, while the piece de resistance is the seven minute epic 'We Want War', which conjures an almost dystopian soundscape with weaving vocals, rattling rhythms, surging horns and sound effects.
No doubt about it, 'Hidden' is a very dark album. Swelling and shrinking with intensity and restraint, this meticulously crafted album sits seamlessly as one symphonic work, complete with running themes and motifs. Yes it can be a challenging listen at times, but a rewarding one that defies trends and laughs in the face of expectation.