Purity Ring is a Halifax, Montreal-based duo comprised of Corin Roddick and Megan James. Their debut album Shrines will be released on July 23rd.
Purity Ring make lullabies for the club, drawing equally from airy 90s R&B, lush dream pop, and the powerful, bone-rattling immediacy of modern hip hop. Megan s remarkable voice is at once ecstatic and ethereal, soaring joyfully through Corin s carefully chopped beats, trembling synths, and skewed vocal samples.
Despite the band s young age (Corin is 21, Megan 24) and short gestation (they formed in late 2010), Purity Ring have delivered one of 2012 s most assured and anticipated debuts with Shrines. Indeed, Shrines feels like anything but a first record its vocal hooks are inescapable, its lush production futuristic and sophisticated but also as pristine as anything on pop radio. The record s 11 tracks trace a unique aesthetic universe that is carefully crafted and fully realised deftly walking the lines between trap-rap exhilaration and otherworldly rapture, pleasure-centre pop and diaristic emotion, childlike dread and total self-possession. Purity Ring s is a universe that invites
exploration and demands revisiting.
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Not the least remarkable thing about this Canadian duo’s utterly remarkable debut is the sense of its own world – self-contained, claustrophobic, intense – in which it has wrapped itself. For a band that have only been going since 2010, the coherence which sucks the listener in while never quite allowing them to fully decode each track’s intent is impressively achieved, oppressively apparent.
The song titles (Fineshrine, Grandloves, Belispeak, Lofticries) reformat words into new combinations that convey new, almost-tangible meanings and many of the lyrics, too, are semi-audible, half-caught amongst the futuristic synths’ pulse and crackle, just out of reach. Where they are discernible, they tell of an often grotesque physicality: “Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you,” pleads vocalist Megan James on Fineshrine. Then, on, Belispeak: “Drill little holes into my eyelids.”
The unsettling nature of much of this content is wonderfully complemented by the music, a strongly synthesised counterpoint to the vocals, which switch between high, breathy, unearthly (Grandloves) and ingénue-like (the disturbing Shuck). Crawlersout’s lyrics are heavily treated, vocoder’d-and-Auto-Tuned, so deep and slow as to be (deliberately) almost inaudible. Elsewhere, Lofticries peters out to a near one-note drone by the song’s end.
The post-dubstep whomp of a low, slow, lazy bassline is present throughout, often punctuated by manic tape-played-backwards interludes, or with a raft of effects like Fineshrine’s curious “yipyipyip” vocalisations, Grandloves’ organ throb, or Ungirthed’s shimmering handclaps. Cartographist, at the album’s centre, represents (aptly) the band’s outer reaches, its backing groans and messed-with beats providing no easy route through.
But it is the more accessible moments that form Shrines’ highlights: the unavoidable sweetness of Ungirthed’s melody, or the shoegaze swirls that combine – somehow – with a dubstep-meets-RnB slink on Grandloves.
The temptation to draw comparisons with 4AD’s original conjurers of oblique mystique the Cocteau Twins is strong, but probably also unfair. Purity Ring have pulled off the feat of producing one of the year’s most arresting debuts – a Grimm Tales for the 2010s, shrouded in the illusory threads of contemporary club music – while sounding like no-one else but themselves.
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