For musicians who always appear to be keeping pop music at arm’s length, Jack and George Barnett sure are predisposed to making it. With These New Puritans, the Southend twins have found a way to marry their love of classical music and electronica into soaring reflections and lush dreamscapes. Between the haunting, eerie chimes of delicate album opener “Infinity Vibraphones,” Jack Barnett’s strained wail calls out “an addiction to the impossible,” which is precisely what he displays on the band’s luminous fourth album. Inside the Rose is an exhaustive snapshot of the career trajectory of These New Puritans, curiously somehow becoming even more melodic as the project grows more experimental.
Even to a listener who may not be able to fully appreciate the intricate nuances of its sonic ebbs and flows, Inside the Rose is able to survive on its mood alone. So much of the album allows its sweeping instrumentation speak for itself. Following stunning moments like the bittersweet synth trip “Anti-Gravity” and the faded, emotive “Inside the Rose,” These New Puritans gracefully utilize a cinematic gradual build in the orchestral and dystopian “Where the Trees Are On Fire,” and warm and seductive portal through the duality of fantasy: “This is where your dreams come true / Your nightmares, too.” When we are finally cast into the flames on “Into the Fire,” it isn’t unsettling at all. In fact, it’s bright and hopefully, filling the track with its spastic drum pattern.
Even though some of the lengthy tracks may seem as though they are expansive and open, Inside the Rose is, for the most part, a fairly claustrophobic record. With all of its electronic flourishes and percussive whirlwinds, it’s a tight album, with quite a lot to unpack. These New Puritans continuously play with the limitations of the form, as with the hushed vocals on “Beyond Black Suns,” feeling as if they were being pulled into an endless void. There’s a distinguished flow that propels each track into the next, but they’re always connected much more by atmosphere than by sonic uniformity. String-led interlude “Lost Angel” bleeds into vivid electronic trills of “A-R-P” – sounding almost like the chilling score of a late 80s horror flick – with ease, jumping over stylistic barriers without ever feeling harsh or jarring.
With “Infinity Vibraphones,” the audience is cast into a thrilling wormhole, but by the time they reach “Six,” they’ve achieved a glorious moment of ascension. In the six years since the band’s last album, 2013’s tranquilizing Field of Reeds, These New Puritans have simultaneously embraced a new level of eccentricity while also learning how to rein in their fascination with the bizarre. Inside the Rose is quite possibly the most compelling argument to win over skeptics since the band’s genre-bending debut 11 years ago.