These New Puritans

Beat Pyramid (Domino)

On early single "Elvis," These New Puritans promised to tell their secrets. Yet Beat Pyramid, their debut record, is as inscrutable and cryptic as hieroglyphics. The album's 16 tracks take the listener on a labyrinthine journey full of false starts, dead ends, and unexpected detours. There are scattered, overt references to postpunk pioneer The Fall (to whom the band owes its name), as well as more oblique ones to spiritual peers such as Liars.

But the truth is that the Southend, UK-based racketeers owe very little to anyone. The songs, if they can be called that, are constructed of the most elemental components — guitars, bass, drums, keyboards — and then collapsed, peeled apart, and digitally altered. The sound is predictably varied, ranging from the tranquil interlude "Doppelganger" to the steely menace of "En Papier." The band's avant-garde inclinations occasionally lead them astray, such as on the turgid "Costume," a cacophonous mess of warped vocals and haphazard cadences. And head Puritan, Jack Barnett, can become a bit too enamored of his record's impenetrable concept. Fortunately, in this case, enjoyment doesn't depend on cracking the narrative. Beat Pyramid proves that sometimes intrigue alone is enough.

 
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