Purity Ring, whose name has a religious implication not reflected in the music, are Megan James and Corin Roddick from Edmonton, AB. Originally a pianist and drummer – as well as members of the group Born Gold – the duo apparently now relies on a “tree-shaped” custom instrument live, which also controls the lights onstage (from Wiki). I would really like to see that, but I just missed them at the F Yeah Fest in September.
Purity Ring’s album Shrines on 4AD Records is a very assured debut of tightly structured gems. Their sound consists of ethereal synths and stuttering electronic beats, which sounds like a common formula lately, but their version is quite unique. The constant broken, stop-and-start feel of the arrangements is arresting and totally captures my attention. It’s the kind of music that conjures images and sparks the imagination.
Megan James delivers soft-spoken vocals that are precious but also a bit spooky. They seem to match the dainty artwork on the album’s digipak, as well as her frequent use of the word “little” in her lyrics. There are distorted male vocals in the background of certain songs, presumably by Roddick, but they play the part of just another instrument in the mix. The lyrics are bizarre but poetic, such as the line from “Fineshrine”: “Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you.” Most of the song titles are made of similarly invented compound words (an autocorrect nightmare): “Grandloves,” “Crawlersout” and “Saltkin.”
The majority of the tracks are consistently good, but my favorites are “Crawlersout,” “Fineshrine,” “Belispeak” and “Saltkin.” The repeated word “Grandma” in James’ soft voice in “Belispeak” makes me think of Little Red Riding Hood; there is a general atmosphere of fairy tales and fantasy that seeps through the album. The words “oh my sweet fairy” feature in the song “Cartographist.” The melodies of “Crawlersout” and “Fineshrine” have been twirling around pleasantly in my head for days, and the album is on repeat in my car, so I can certainly recommend it.
The only misstep, in my opinion, is the inclusion of a guest singer Young Magic on the track “Grandloves.” His vocals have a decidedly R&B style to them that doesn’t seem to fit the overall feel, so I tend to skip past it.
Image via 4AD records website