These New Puritans @ FRICTION 6/8

review by Sheryl Witlen
photos by Pat Parault

Each month, FRICTION NYC, a New York City-based music and culture site, curates a showcase highlighting NYC’s indie music scene, visiting acts, and DJs. This month, FRICTION presented These New Puritans, who arrived on their first U.S. tour. Warming up the crowd were local acts School of Seven Bells and Soundpool, with Anicet spinning between sets. KEXP correspondent Sheryl Witlen was there:

Soundpool broke through the stormy Sunday night in Williamsburg thanks to the genteel vocals of Kim Field and John Ceparano. The local band is coming off the release of their album Dichotomies and Dreamland via Aloft Records and will find fans of those who favor the sounds of bands such as Longwave or The Ravonettes. On stage, typical to the shoegazer genre by which the band is often defined, Soundpool as a collective unit interacted rarely with each other or the audience, but this did not detract from their captivating songs and overall appeal. Theirs is a sound that would be interesting to hear mixed with all of the technological advances in the music scene, for their beats and heavy rhythms are incredibly clever and well-positioned.

Earlier in the day, I had been thinking about Bat for Lashes and wondering what one of my favorite UK bands has been up to. As if in answer to my inquiry, School of Seven Bells took the stage and enchanted me much like the bewitching Natasha Khan had before. New to each other but not the music community, the band comprises of Benjamin Curtis, formerly of Secret Machines, who apparently met twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza while all three were on tour as openers for Interpol. With 2007 seeing the release of their debut EP Face to Face on High Places and a tour opening for Blonde Readhead and Prefuse 73, this young band has learned how to meld into an adept collective that makes the rest of Brooklyn proud. With each of the three members singing in the spaces created by the others’ vocals, the effect both is eerie and endearing. And it’s hard not to love a band that incorporates chains of bells and tingly instruments to make the overall sound complete.

It was evident that the whole room had been waiting for These New Puritans to take their positions on stage for quite some time. Restless and anxious, we in the audience kept shuffling our feet and straining our necks while the stage plot was being erected. I myself have been waiting to see this band since I first heard them during Johns Richards’ show back in January and alerted all of my fellow music lovers to keep an eye out for their performances during SXSW. Finally, the lights dimmed as Sophie Sleigh-Johnson, Thomas Hein and twin brothers Jack Barnett and George Barnett struck their opening positions. Barely pausing, they ripped through a set consisting of “Swords of Truth,” “FFF,” and their hit single, “Elvis.” The most refreshing surprise of the evening for me was the way frontman Jack Barnett spat out lyrics with a similar vigor and spunk as fellow countrymen Jamie T and Mike Skinner. Whereas on album he sounds precise and collected, in the live setting he lashes out his lines with such youthful giddiness and excitement that the audience feels suspended in anticipation that he might lose it an any moment. It will be interesting to watch this band, who gather so many recognizable influences, as the mature. For now they are as loud and hyper as they come and, well, what isn’t enjoyable about that?

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