The thing about Purity Ring (the Halifax/Montreal by way of Edmonton Canada electronic dream pop duo) isn’t that they make music that different from many of their contemporaries. It’s that they happen to do it better than the rest. In a year characterized by some fabulously dreamy and transcendent female vocal performances and artists (see Grimes, Beach House, Frankie Rose, Now Now, Julia Holter, Of Monsters and Men, etc.), Megan James of Purity Ring is in serious competition to outshine the rest. While I’ve been swooning and swaying to many a chanteuse of late (from Claire Boucher (Grimes) to Victoria Legrand (Beach House)), the eerie Sugarcubes-era Björk turn by Megan James on “Ungirthed” floors me with each repeated listen. It’s like putting on a set of headphones and walking back in time to a moment when music and the world simply unhinged and felt topsy-turvy, yet all the more understandable. Also, the brilliance of Corrin Roddick’s fusion of downtempo and dub-step beats and production elements cannot be downplayed. “Ungirthed” is a brilliant mash up of 80’s Brit/Dream pop with latter day electronica. Or, perhaps, you might prefer a reinterpretation of (Cure-esque) lushly layered Goth-Rock as evidenced by “Saltkin” or the (oddly) upbeat “Fineshrine” – the bass drops on this track are insanely euphoric. Do you get the sense I really like this record?
If I were in Robert Altman‘s The Player, I’d pitch this record as The Sugarcubes and Cocteau Twins meets the xx and Passion Pit with an early B-52s (minus the Mod) anachronistic feel. But, even that doesn’t capture their unique sound. Purity Ring also incorporates Hip-Hop and R&B elements in a similar fashion to Gayngs – a side-project/super-group featuring members of Bon Iver, Megafaun, Polica and the Rosebuds; listen closely to “Grandloves” or the previously referenced bass element on “Fineshrine” and you’ll see what I mean. Because of the brilliant pacing and layering of beat on Shrines, the whole record is ripe for a (downtempo) dance party or an up-tempo mash up by clever DJs like Four Tet, Jamie XX, SBTRKT, or James Murphy (a la Radiohead’s TKOL RMX 1234567). And, yes, if you’ve been listening to Grimes (another Montreal based musician), you’ll find a surface similarity between the structure and style, especially on the trance-dance “Obedear”. However, (I’d argue that) Purity Ring’s tracks follow more traditional song structures as compared to Grimes more experimental soundscapes or atmospheric pieces.
All references and allusions aside, Shrines is definitely a sensational sounding and impressive debut record. It’s such an intricate mix of contemporary electronic and dance while blending familiar indie-rock and dream pop motifs. The combined effect of all this artful alchemy is a record built for chilling, grooving, and (mentally) melting into.
So start your evening swoon or weekend’s groove early and listen to Purity Ring’s Shrines in its entirety here.
For additional information, free downloads of “Fineshrine” and “Obedear”, or to purchase their record, visit their 4AD (great label!!!) site here.
I’ve seen the future, and it’s getting better,
Note 1: For those following at home, at least one of these tracks, “Ungirthed”, was first released in 2011, but I tend to date my evaluation of songs/tracks on “album release date” because I generally like to see how they relate to the work as a whole.
Note 2: Now perhaps you see why I was listening/thinking about the Cure last week.
Note 3: Billy Corgan should probably keep his mouth shut at this stage of the game. His band was really good for about six years and I’ll always fondly remember them. However, don’t diss another really influential band (with longevity and staying power). If you want to know what I’m talking about see here.