These New Puritans, Barbican, gig review

Barbican, London

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The Independent Culture

When a hawk has to be trained to land with a thundering whoosh during your album, you are not as other bands.

Essex’s These New Puritans are among British pop’s few current pioneers, refusing to plod in the footsteps of its past.

Instead, they’ve engaged with US hip-hop and R&B, ancient Japanese beats and the contemporary classical world. The Heritage Orchestra and Synergy Vocals are temporary Puritans tonight, bringing TNP’s third album Field of Reeds to rich life.

Jack Barnett is the 25-year-old singer-composer whose open-hearted ambition drives his band’s integration of classical, dance and rock music. Suspended, ominous strings during “The Light In Your Name” are replaced by hammering beats and red-lit, demonic mania, while strings shiver briefly against the woodwinds’ resigned melancholy during “Spiral”. The dark romance between the voices of Barnett and Elisa Rodrigues is the heart of these dramatic arrangements.

Harshly digital textures trigger the surging orchestral dance-rock of “We Want War”, with Barnett (whose twin brother George is TNP’s drummer) the physically restless focus.

As it finishes, he sits on his haunches almost out of sight, like a resting poet. He’s earned his kip.