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These New Puritans - The Cut [2016-2019] (Album Review)

Friday, 28 February 2020 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Guy Lowndes

On ‘The Cut’ These New Puritans, the newly trimmed Southend-on-Sea duo of brothers Jack and George Barnett, have pieced together recordings from the past few years in a four-part collection of uneasy, diverse and frequently striking music.

It is a haunting, if uneven, B-sides compilation that features turns from Scintii (who also performed on 2019’s ‘Inside the Rose’), Ossian Brown (of Coil) and Andrew Liles (Current 93, Nurse With Wound).
 
Despite its flaws the record is occasionally stunning. Infinity Vibraphones Orchestral Mirror is a grand reworking from their previous record that occasionally veers towards mesmerising.

More predictable chords may have helped it to walk that path, but the discordant choices actually give the music a Nick Cave-esque integrity that keeps you intellectually, if not wholly emotionally, engaged.
 
Elsewhere, the tonal inconsistency is undeniable. Sphinx in Pieces and Angels Come Down both open fairly strongly but seem to fall away as musical ideas are picked up and put down. Sometimes the arrangements are the problem, and plenty of the drum sounds in particular feel imbalanced, and others it's simply a lack of memorable melody-writing.
 
There are also several remixes on the album that don’t entirely connect. Beyond Black Suns (remixed by the aforementioned Scintii) holds a lot of musical interest but, again, slightly fumbles its sense of balance. It actually recalls the collaboration between Björk and Arca on 2017’s ‘Utopia’ but lacks that record’s confidence and charisma.

As we move into the final part, Intro Tape (pts i & ii) arrive  seemingly as hard avant-garde sonic chemistry: a whirring digital foghorn floats around menacingly while crowd sounds develop into string ambience. But listen further and it actually appears as though this is the intro music for a gig; the soundtrack to the band walking on stage. Did they run out of music for this record?

Do they think this is ‘The White Album'? It is not 'The White Album'. ‘The Cut (2016-2019)’ is unlike most records out there, in a good way, but it is what it is: a collection of studies and B-sides from a band who require an immersive consistency to succeed. One for the Stans.



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