It’s been a decade of sonic innovation since a teenage Jack and George Barnett released their debut album Beat Pyramid as These New Puritans. Over those 10 years they’ve proven themselves to be fearless innovators and last record Field Of Reeds was a thing of beauty. Now they’re back, with their first album in six years, we thought it was about time Danny Wright got Gemma Samways and Thomas Hannan together to get inside Inside the Rose…
So, what are your thoughts about TNP?
Thomas: To be honest they irritated the hell out of me right up until Field of Reeds, but I loved that record and after that I’ve come to be a big admirer. They make really ambitious and inventive music and are, in general, a force for good.
Gemma: I was aware of them around the first record but it was Hidden that got me into them.
Thomas: They’re also not at all fashionable, and they don’t seem to care one bit, which is a quality I admire in people and bands alike.
Gemma: When you write down what they do, and where their influences are, they sound insanely pretentious. But in practise, I love them.
Thomas: Oh definitely. It is pretentious. But so is…. ballet. And David Foster Wallace.
Why do you think it works then? And was Field of Reeds their best record?
Thomas: It’s definitely my favourite. I thought it was really beautiful, where I found the preceding records a bit style over substance. It all came together on that record for me. It works because they’ve got conviction in what they’re doing, and while they clearly know their way around really technical aspects of composition, there’s a heart to it.
Gemma: I was so into Hidden, I found Field of Reeds a bit of a wrench initially. But they have a way of seeping under your skin. I agree about the conviction. They never feel like they’re paying lip service to a style for credibility, which you do sense with some bands.
Thomas: I agree – it’s almost a bit unfair to review this record before it’s had a really long time to settle with you. We should talk again in 2023.
Gemma: Saying that, this new one I was into straight away!
The press release says: ‘It’s unlike anything else you’ll hear this year’ – is that true? Or an album you’ll hear in 2023?
Thomas: In terms of their contemporaries, none of them who’ve survived will release a record anywhere near this interesting, or downright good, this year. There’s music like this of course, but it’s not being made by many ‘bands’ as such. Their career trajectory reminds me of Talk Talk, which I mean as the highest of compliments.
Gemma: I see them as in the lineage of Kate Bush or Scott Walker – not in a literal sense that their music is similar but in the sense that they seem out of step with everyone else. And genuinely seem to develop with each record. Though the press release says they hate looking back: so they’d probably be pissed with being compared to them.
They said: “Why dream backwards when you can dream forwards?” Does it sound like the future?
Gemma: SOPHIE sounds like the future. TNP feel timeless?
Thomas: A lot of it sounds like 60s minimalism – one of my favourites is the opener ‘Infinity Vibraphones’, but if there’s a more Steve Reich title of a song this year that isn’t actually by Steve Reich I’d be surprised.
Does it feel like the first albums? Or something new?
Thomas: It feels like a natural progression from Field of Reeds which, as someone who wasn’t really in to the first few albums, I’m very happy about.
Gemma: I had it as a cross between Hidden and Field of Reeds, but less mad than the former and more varied than the latter. I really love this album.
Thomas: They let ideas breathe a lot more these days, which is good because they have a lot of really fascinating ideas.
Gemma: There’s a lyric that stuck out for me, in ‘A-R-P’: “Let this music be a kind of paradise, a kind of nightmare, a kind of I don’t care”. I genuinely don’t think they give a fuck what anyone thinks.
And what about favourite tracks?
Gemma: ‘Into The Fire’, ‘A-R-P’ and ‘Six’. And ‘Beyond Black Suns’ reminds me of Depeche Mode.
Thomas: I like ‘Into the Fire’ a lot. It starts with this lovely major chord which is so jarring because the rest of it is so relentlessly murky. It’s just this one really awesome moment. ‘Anti-Gravity’ is great too, proof that they can write hooks if they want to. They just… don’t really want to. ‘Where the Trees are on Fire’ is gorgeous, they have a way of combining brass and strings and weird, scary, simple sentences really well.
Is it a potential album of the year? (I ask in February)
Thomas: It’ll be my album of 2023. I’m not sure I’ll have got my head around it properly by the end of the year.
Gemma: Quite possibly, yes. It needs to embed itself in my brain for a bit longer.
Is it something that you think will come to life live, too?
Thomas: I’d love to see it live. But this is stuff for fancy concert halls, not sticky carpet venues.
Gemma: It’s got Barbican written all over it.
Thomas: Exactly. It almost feels like it’s been commissioned by somewhere like that.