These New Puritans aren’t exactly a jokey band, but the fact that they’re on a label called Infectious Music is worth a chuckle. While Twin brothers Jack and George Barnett’s music is by no means inaccessible, it’s not meant to be hummed along to or get stuck in your head while in line at the bank. 2013’s Field of Reeds completed their transition from chaotic post-punkers to art rock mavericks. It was infused with neoclassical elements that gave every measure purpose.

The duo’s latest, Inside The Rose, is equal parts evolution and regression. Though no more minimal than its predecessor, they’ve gone back to being a duo, with collaborator Thomas Hein out of the picture. It also fuses the majesty of Field of Reeds with the chaos of their earlier work. The promise of these tinkerers being able to weld two styles they’re more than proficient in is enticing, but it’s more than These New Puritans are able to deliver. What Jack and George have produced isn’t an unfocused mess, but it’s a work of unrealized potential.

A lot happens over the course of 40 minutes, much of it feeling like they’re filling in spaces not because they need to be filled but because they feel iffy about how long a passage can hold the listener’s attention. Opener ‘Infinity Vibraphones’ is enriched by the titular instrument and moments that are great in a vacuum, like militaristic drums and female vocals taking the lead. Unfortunately, when it’s over, it doesn’t feel like you’re in that different of a place from where you were when it started. They have the right elements but not at the right time.

Jack and George’s strength is making songs that are simple, not simplistic. Like Phil Elverum’s pre-A Crow Looked at Me material, their best work is readily identifiable as their own, freed of any devotion to pop structure. Lyrics are sung and bellowed and whispered by Jack, detailing a fascination with nature, terrestrial and beyond, not unlike Elverum. Close your eyes during ‘Into The Fire’ and you can imagine Jack’s musing on the sun and black roses fitting in on an album like Mount Eerie, but it would pale in comparison to what’s around it. Even without Elverum around, the shortcomings stick out.

Much of Inside The Rose is predicated on alienation. Even if that concept has been milked dry, it can still strike a nerve. But their perspective on it is limited to “alienation is tough.” The chilling, shimmering synths and strong drums are the only redeeming factors of ‘Anti-Gravity,’ which sounds like the Death Cab For Cutie/Twilight Sad collaboration you never knew you didn’t want. If there’s a good way to deliver lines like, “You do a great impression of someone who is lost. Well, I’m lost too. So, let’s get lost together,” These New Puritans haven’t found it.

It might’ve been in their best interest to have stuck with their more minimal approach of Field of Reeds, even at risk of repeating themselves. The most purely moving moment of this album comes in the first half of ‘Where The Trees Are On Fire,’ which simply offers strings, woodwinds, keys and Jack singing delicately about immolating foliage and other images of despair. Then, they shoot themselves in the foot by piling on drums and extending vocals. Even though it recedes somewhat back to its original form, the unrestrained impulse to add/extend things hurts what could’ve been an unparalleled success.

Inside the Rose doesn’t cast any doubts about These New Puritans’ creativity or understanding of how to make things sound good. There are plenty of sparks of inspiration they should return to, like the male and female vocals that sound like they’re singing at the same time in different rooms on ‘Beyond Black Suns’ or the intriguing vibraphone passage mixed with slurred vocals on 'A-R-P'. They just don’t cohere into a powerful whole like their previous work. “No, this is not a dream. This is really happening,” Jack sings on the latter track. It’s ultimately neither. He and his brother have made an album that’s too impersonal to provide an actual emotional connection but also lacking the vision necessary to provide something out of this world.