Release Date: Jul 24, 2012
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
It’s been well over a year since ‘Ungirthed’ slipped onto the web and began Purity Ring’s slow-burning insinuation into the consciousness of the blogosphere, Corin Roddick’s lurching sound-waves and Megan James’ panicked-child vocals surprising with their unusual cohesion. ‘Ungirthed’ bore its influences for all to see - twitching, hip hop-inspired percussion, Salem-styled synth creeps and the sort of pitched-off, heady vocals you might expect from the lovechild of Justin Vernon and Moaning Myrtle. These influences, though, seemed so disjointed - so far removed from one another - that you were unsure as to how the whole thing even worked.
This Canadian duo composed their spectral electro-pop debut by writing tracks back and forth via e-mail over hundreds of miles. That sense of distance permeates the music: dark, mutable, likably repetitive synth whirr that recalls artfully creepy bands like the Knife. Instrumentalist Corin Roddick makes atonal friction, and singer Megan James' piercing vocals balance the ominously visceral ("Dig holes in me with wooden carved trowels," she commands on "Grandloves") and the atmospherically delighted (on "Obedear" we learn she "came down over the sleeping mountains").
It doesn’t take long for the full gravity of ‘Shrines’ to take effect. A few lines into ‘Fineshrine,’ the second track on Purity Ring’s debut, the Canadians’ many qualities collide in staggering fashion. A stuttering intro gives way to Megan James singing “[i]Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you[/i]”. The imagery is bold enough to make a poet weep, snap their favourite quill in half and resign themselves to working at the local car wash for the rest of their days.
Purity RingShrines[4AD; 2012]By Ryan Stanley; July 23, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetHow does one account for the meteoric rise in popularity that Montreal duo Purity Ring has seen over the course of the past year and a half? Sure, that question might seem a tad hyperbolic, but Purity Ring has gotten further on the basis of five mp3s than most bands are lucky to get after a couple of albums and years of touring. At the beginning of 2011, Purity Ring was, for all intents and purposes, not even a thing that existed in the collective consciousness of the music world. Yet by the time their debut album Shrines was announced in April it had long been one of the most anticipated albums of the year.
In early 2011 a song called "Ungirthed" by a group called Purity Ring started circulating online. There wasn't much information about them out there; they had a member that used to be in something called Gobble Gobble, which momentarily seemed notable. But everything you needed to know was contained in the song itself. It mixed the kind of ghostly pitch-shifted vocals, reminiscent of the Knife and Burial, that had spent the previous year haunting witch house; it had warped, surging, Dilla-derived synth chords that popular online remixers like Star Slinger were on the verge of turning into a cliché.
From Braids to Grimes, Canada seems to be cranking out new age-y, would-be-creepy electronic music at a rate that nearly makes it all seem….well, quite frankly, normal. And this Halifax–Montreal duo is no exception. Carried on a dark undertow, the real power of Purity Ring’s sound is Megan James’ saccharine voice. The juxtaposition of an earnest attempt at a spook with what otherwise sounds like super-weird children’s songs is at least genuinely interesting, falling short of fear-inspiring, if that’s what they were after.
The reflexive eye-rolling and collective sighing of “oh, can’t we do better than this” that happens whenever someone raises the notion of chillwave or witch-house as actual worthwhile genres is sort of hilarious. An approach to music-making is now instantly and completely dismissed by people who otherwise pine for “quality” and “innovation” and “vision” based solely on the perception that the genre is just too easy/trendy/simple … yet simultaneously too artsy/indulgent/pretentious. It’s a bizarre bit of cognitive dissonance, because, whether or not you like intestine-rattling bass mixed with woozy atmospherics, there’s no denying that the practitioners of this genre are mucking about in some legitimately zeitgeist-y areas of sonic exploration.
You could never tell by listening to them, but Purity Ring were never in the same room while working on Shrines until the very end. That distance allowed them to both steer the album toward their preferred sound, and the difference in their visions is what makes the dreamy textures so disarming and so alluring. Part of the success is that Shrines transcends the dream-pop label that vocalist Megan James steers toward, being filled with Corin Reddick’s electronica and house influences.
Purity Ring frontwoman Megan James once revealed to Under the Radar, partially tongue-in-cheek, that her primary influences were "the five elements of nature. " At this nascent stage of the band's career, when they only had the ubiquitously blogged "Lofticries" and "Ungirthed" to their name, there wasn't much to talk about. James' comment resonates, however, when one listens to the band's excellent debut LP Shrines, an enrapturing collection of numbers that takes cues from a wide breadth of styles, ranging from R&B, electro, and modern FM pop, and recombines them to create something akin to an aural equivalent of the alien planet from the Tarkovsky film Solaris—enigmatic, languid, and impossibly gorgeous, woven together with an uncanny facility with off-kilter melody.
Such is the glut of ethereal electropop, new acts risk drifting past with all the unearthly beauty of a cheap air freshener. So what a pleasure that Canadian duo Purity Ring have sidestepped wafty, dream-pop cliche to make an album that repays exploration. Like fellow 4AD debutante Grimes, they hold melodic immediacy and twitchy esoterica in careful tension: Fineshrine strikes a compromise between gleaming hooks and electronic fidgets; Cartographist layers warped vocals on to doomy bass.
In this Montreal indie electro duo, Megan James sings while Corin Roddick plays an instrument shaped like a tree of lights. The latter is an appropriate metaphor for their eccentric, fairytale world, which mixes 80s synthesiser pop swirls with plinky-plonky beats, shimmering, ghostly textures and odd but catchy tunes. Like 4AD predecessor Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, James appears to have crafted her own language in songs given titles such as Lofticries and Belispeak.
Edmonton, Alberta duo Purity Ring unlocks something primordial and ancient with keycards and retina scanners. Singer Megan James and producer/instrumentalist Corin Roddick don’t use synths and reverb to shroud emotion, they use technology to serve up emotion that is bloody and still beating. It’s as if only Roddick’s trap beats can coax James’ nascent voice from her diaphragm.
Together now for only two years, Canadian daze-pop duo Purity Ring first drew our attention last year on a couple of viral leaks in "Ungirthed" and "Lofticries" before dropping a Fat Possum split with Braids. Comprised of producer Corin Roddick and vocalist Megan James, the two quickly summited the burgeoning Montreal electronic-pop scene alongside acts like Grimes, d'Eon and Doldrums, despite the fact that only Roddick calls the Quebec hotbed home. Snapped up earlier this year by British institution 4AD, Purity Ring's debut album, Shrines, drops fittingly just in time for days of heatstroke and uncomfortable summer blazes.
While whimsical, female-voiced electronic pop was all the rage when Purity Ring's debut album Shrines was released, the duo still managed to stand out from the crowd. Their sweetly chilly sound falls somewhere between Grimes' intricate quirks and the rhapsodic wordplay and sensuality of Braids, but Purity Ring's individuality comes from the equal partnership of Megan James' girlish vocals and unusual lyrics, and Corin Roddick's playful electronic soundscapes. Shrines makes good on the promise of the songs the duo previously issued online, which remain highlights: "Fineshrine" may still be the quintessential Purity Ring song, with James entreating the listener to "cut open my sternum and poke" as Roddick's backdrop flits between gentle and ominous; many of James' songs are focused on the body, treating it with almost spiritual wonder as on the dark, Crystal Castles-like "Belispeak.
If you're looking for a convenient overview of on-trend indie pop right now, listen no further than the debut LP from Purity Ring. The Montreal/Halifax duo combines muffled, moody hip-hop-influenced beats and spaced-out synths with quirky vocal effects and saccharine songwriting that sounds something like if Southern rap producer Lex Luger produced the Knife. That pairing sounds either super-annoying or extremely inspired, and Shrines runs the gamut between those extremes.
It’s no stretch to say Purity Ring’s debut Shrines rolls into town lookin’ ‘n’ smellin’ like a Sure Thing. Even before you drop the needle, it’s tempting to switch to DEFCON 1 and declare a new world order. Just read the signs. It’s happening. “Meesterious-like-Roger-Moore” art ….
As the story goes, when lo-fi sound tinkerer Ethan Kath enlisted punk vocalist Alice Glass to sing over some of his chirping, tinny music experiments, Crystal Castles was born. In contrast to the duo’s razor-like, Atari-tinged output, there’s an almost organic elegance to the way in which Kath’s reclusive, romantic electro noise and Glass’s Johnny Rotten-esque brashness fused into a cohesive whole. Fellow Canadians Purity Ring no doubt have a similar aim: melding instrumentalist Corin Roddick’s brand of thumping, twitchy dubstep with singer Megan James’s dreamy innocence to craft something that’s both cerebral and innovative.
What is and what might never be for Montreal’s young indie electronic/witch house duo Purity Ring had me drafting of their “contradictory, contemporary” nature and their “fraught, nubilous catchiness” upon my first listen. After a half-dozen spins, the pleased-to-meet-you plaudits remain only aspirationally correct. Shrines lands as an ironic genre-hashtag Rorschach test.
One of the year’s most arresting debuts from a band sounding like nobody but themselves. Jude Clarke 2012 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.
Curiosity killed the cat - so the saying goes. Today, where the business of new music is fuelled by the fast moving internet, it’s not just a case of curiosity. It’s the far meaner, less forgiving hype that often kills the poor moggy; or at least scares it off into a corner where all it can do is produce a series of ear-splitting meows rather than music.
Like many electronic pop contemporaries, Purity Ring made its rounds on the Internet first. Canadian duo Megan James and production guru Corin Roddick took their time capitalizing on the hype, which now makes debut LP Shrines all the sweeter as it pulls through ghostly head-trips of throbbing bass. Single "Obedear" has an apocalyptic menace reminiscent of electro-pop princess Grimes, only Megan James manages something the former hasn't yet mastered: making her chipper soprano seductive ("Lofticries").
Targeting an audience that I believe includes even themselves showing a thorough enjoyment of their craft, Purity Ring swells beautifully with their debut album, Shrines, available now on 4AD records. Dispersing out of rival sound mates, Gobble Gobble and Born Gold, Purity Ring is a duo made up of Montreal, Quebec natives Corrin Roddick and Megan James. Dreamy at times (Crawlersout), with shimmering synths and picturesque melodies, there is a haunting beauty, almost terrifying, that surrounds the listener, almost as if one is sitting inside a sonic cocoon while taking it all in.
Only two years and 11 songs into their career, Purity Ring are already a divisive duo. It's not that anyone outright hates them, but those who are indifferent are adamantly so ? the lack of accidental notes, key changes, mathematical rhythms, or organic instrumental sorcery on debut album Shrines caused shrugs amongst some snobby music fans. Fair enough, but they're missing the point: there's something inexplicable about Purity Ring's marriage of Montrealer Corin Roddick's haunted, bass-heavy hip-hop-tronic production to Haligonian Megan James's prim alto croon, something that transcends what is traditionally accepted as "good" music.
Up until now, Purity Ring has only released five songs online. But like any group worth its weight in online buzz, the duo has already topped lists of bands to watch and albums to look forward to. After listening to those tracks, it is easy to see why there is so much intrigue surrounding them: They are otherworldly. The songs literally sound like they are from another planet, a universe most of us don’t have access to.First of all, most of the song titles are not actually words.