These new Puritans, a group of four 20 year olds from Southend, UK are de facto band leader Jack Barnett (vocals, guitar), his twin brother George (drums), Thomas Hein (bass, sampler) and Sophie Sleigh-Johnson (synth, sampler). They have accomplished much in their brief existence. Their debut EP, Now Pluvial, came about as a result of one intense, 24-hour session in October 2006 in the shed-cum-studio assembled by the band. Recorded in harsh, digital audio onto Jack's laptop, the EP was released on 7" vinyl in a limited edition of 500 copies, before being made available as a free download for a single day, and then deleted.
In early 2007, George was invited to work with Hedi Slimane on his autumn '07 collection for Dior Homme. A week before the catwalk show, Slimane called Jack to Paris, requesting of him the no-small task of composing a suitable 15-minute soundtrack. The resulting “Navigate, Navigate” showed the band, in only a few short months, to have moved light years ahead of Now Pluvial. A collaboration in the truest sense of the word, it seemed to draw as much of the resulting press attention as did Slimane's sleek, elegant costumes.
By this stage, the band had begun to earn a strong reputation for their furious live shows – first in dingy East London clubs, and then across the UK and Europe. Onstage, clad in a neat uniform of black and gold, These New Puritans have the capacity to draw you in and knock you out in the same breath. The band's ringleader, Jack is possessed and mage-like wearing armour, reaching out to the heavens for inspiration. George plays the drums with a fury that suggests, where he not behind the kit, he might need to kill a man; Thomas flits between a rack of samplers and his bass guitar in half-studied, half-manic concentration; and Sophie stands ice cold, summoning sounds from an ancient synthesizer and a miniature sequencer.
Beat Pyramid, their full-length debut on Domino Records, is the next phase in These New Puritans' hyperbolic progression. Recorded alongside Gareth Jones – the producer of albums by Einsturzende Neubauten, Liars, and Wire’s most electronica inspired albums – its songs are an ever-mutating blur of brash chords, subtle details, and taut rhythms, borne of influences as disparate as Sonic Youth and dubstep, This Heat and Greek pottery, David Lynch and Dr. Feelgood, J Dilla and the 16th century occultist John Dee.
This is a band of extremes. The songs on Beat Pyramid have an immediacy that belies their complex themes: “Numbers” is typical of the band’s output, marrying themes of mediaeval numerology to pop choruses and a colossal dub-step drum loop. A truly modern pop song. “Infinitytinifni” a celebration of the melting of the polar ice-caps set to one chord and three drums; “Swords Of Truth” is centered around a dancehall-ish beat with cut-up drums, named after the terrorist cell linked with the kidnap of BBC journalist Alan Johnson, that may or may not also have been written in homage to the Wu-Tang Clan.
The first (and last) thing you'll hear, however, is a strange, dislocated voice. "We started off with just this voice; this fragment of voice saying 'I Will Say This Twice, I Will Say This Twice' – that was the mystery," says Jack. The idea was to create a continuously revolving album that has no beginning or end. "And we thought 'OK, where can we go now?' We wanted to make a pyramid with our sound. Cutting, carving a pyramid out of the air waves – like the sounds pulsing through the air and carving out a pyramid structure. It took on a lot of other meanings, and you can hear them all in the album. It has all the secrets, labyrinths and tunnels that a pyramid has.”
"This music is weightless," says Jack midway through 'Swords Of Truth', perhaps the most striking track on the album. "This music's symbolic." In seven words, he manages to sum up his band better than anyone else could – in typically oblique fashion, of course.