Barely in their twenties, These New Puritans are more than willing to verbally admit their various influences, which range from the obvious (the Fall) to the obscure (16th century astrologer John Dee), and many of which are apparent on Beat Pyramid, their full-length debut, an angular, drum-driven album that dips into the experimental and the concrete without ever losing sight of itself. There's a seriousness to their music, most of which comes from bandleader Jack Barnett's straightforwardness and delivery. The lyrics don't deal with typical themes of love and sadness; instead, Barnett brings up ideas of numbers and colors and philosophy -- and these recur throughout the whole album, taking a very frank approach. "What's your favorite number, what does it mean?" he asks in the very Wire-esque "Numerology (aka Numbers)," then going through one to ten (skipping five and eight), explaining each ("Number One is the individual, Number Two, duality") and leaving very little room for misinterpretation. This directness, however, is quite charming, and does a fine job of preventing the songs from becoming overly pretentious or esoteric. The drum and bass in "Elvis" pound portentously as Barnett sings "And if there is a God, then please take me up," before launching back into his Eddie Argos/Mark E. Smith attack ("I try to blurt it out but I can't find the words," he says, rather brilliantly), while "Swords of Truth" has him admitting "This music is weightless, and when I sing, so am I." These New Puritans' sound has a sense of immediacy, in the way the instruments -- synths, bass, guitar, drums, samples, and especially the vocals -- loop and jolt against one other, but it's also clearly planned and considered. The album itself has a circularity about it, both in individual tracks -- which focus on repeating phrases, or, in the case of "Infinity Ytinifni," in name -- and its whole structure, down to the packaging (the track list is written as a kind of continuous loop, next to which are the Arabic translations of it, which, read right to left, mirror the left-to-right English names). Beat Pyramid begins and ends in the middle of the same sentence, literally and figuratively, but it doesn't come across as contrived or insincere, thanks mostly to Barnett, who conveys his words in a manner that is simultaneously solemn and half-winking, as if he knows they could be totally wrong, but he's going to say them like they're all he's got left, anyway.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown