You know an album’s going to be good when all your writers suddenly email you at once going ‘Oh my god, have you heard this?!’. It happened last year with Wild Beasts and Noah And The Whale, and the first band of 2010 to disappear in a flurry of hastily mistyped missives are former Southend-sceners and Angular Records beaty post-punkers TNP. ‘Hidden’, out January 18 (nice birthday present, guys, thanks!), definitely marks an adventurous sonic step forward from ‘Beat Pyramid’. And when we say 'step', we mean 'stampede'.
Starting off in slow fugues of horns, this restrained intro reminds you of Bjork’s more orchestral moments, especially on ‘Volta’. Then, just when you’re lulled into pastoral reverie…
We Want War
BAM! A bass drum cracks into your poor soft ears like a loose freight container. A dark, brutal, tribal beat, nastier than Massive Attack’s ‘Inertia Creeps’, creepy lizard voices intoning the title, brass competing with vaguely Eastern-sounding drones and surly distorted guitar… Southend by way of the Westworld. It’s menacing, but also kind of sexy in a weird way. If it was an item of clothing, Rihanna would probably wear it.
Three – Thousand
An oppressive, crunky, clanking rhythm, stark as a steel forest, is haunted by chiming, harpsichord keys and Jack Barnett’s surly mumblings about “slicing through time”.
Hesistant piano and the sort of shifting rhythms Field Music are so fond of, it’s kind of reminiscent of the more mental moments on Kate Bush’s ‘The Dreaming’ (not that much of that album is sane, mind). In its weird way, it’s quite sweet and romantic, with soft parps of woodwind.
A robo-goth hymn, MIA meets Timbaland-produced Bjork in a crunk wasteland.
Barnett howls ‘I’m in the fire, fire, fire’ in a way that tells you his been listening to MIA’s first album a lot, and the drums get tribal again. Kind of reminds you of Tricky’s nastiest moments on 'Pre-Millenium Tension'.
This thumping, funereal thing, garlanded with ominous choirs and a whip-sharp breakbeat dotting about its spaces like a hungry shark and evil children chanting it to its death (a bit like Suede’s ‘We Are The Pigs’ only with less hip-slapping). It’s what Muse might sound like in a world where crap things were good.
A canticle, as any fule know, is a song of praise from the gospels… this, though, is a pleasantly diverting little woodwind skit.
Drum Courts – Where Corals Lie
If you like the sound of a beat stamping on the human face forever, and you really can’t wait for that new Liars album, jump right in. Again, hints of Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’ in the whispered menace and unflinching rhythms, but this is a far rougher, more stripped back affair, not so much trip-hop as mechanical dance music.
Probably one of the most 'bloody hell, this really is good' moments on this album. The sharp-edged snap and clicks sound a little like Hot Chip in mechanoid battle-dress, Barnett sounding moonily romantic as he keens "I've got white chords running through my body and the fur of a white cat on my back," in a English-Yeasayer-on-opium sort of way.
Gamelan? Oooh, get you! Icy and magical, this brass-and-woodwind and bells and everything instrumental is a soothingly simple way to close a shockingly brilliant album. Now, we need a nice lie down.