Billed as a suite in three instalments of three tracks each, These New Puritans' third LP is a studious affair, as absorbant as it is absorbing (among its many influencers and participators are conductor André de Ridder, basso profundo Adrian Peacock, and professor Andrew McPherson, whose magnetic resonator piano is used on several songs).
It'd be easy to sniff at leader Jack Barnett's namedrops - Stephen Sondheim, Oscar Hammerstein, Kurt Weill - and to think the methods and perfectionism employed in the album's making contrived (Barnett insisted on recording his twin brother George's drums 76 times for Fragment Two; a whole day was dedicated to smashing glass for The Lights in Your Name), but Field of Reeds expertly tightropes the line between curious and curio.
Its lofty ambitions and experiments are tempered by a melodiousness that transcends any accusations of it being a purely academic exercise - the lilting, willowing cello of V (Island Song) and the tilting, persuasive piano of Fragment Two provide just two simple, affecting hooks among many. Quietly recorded, there is an overall softness to the work - cushioned by intimate brass, and led by the throaty burr of Barnett's vocal - that makes this a deeply personal, close listen. [Lauren Strain]