Purity Ring – Shrines
This dreamy electronic duo sure knows how to keep an audience captivated and waiting. They first debuted their breakthrough single “Ungirthed” about a year ago, a track fille with a heavy bass, swirling and disorienting synths, and vocal distortions that would make Burial proud. On top of that, it had an incredible melody over a glitchy beat, with a chorus of “ears ringing teeth clicking” being repeated over and over. The song was pure gold, and was soon followed by another, the more spaced out “Lofticries”, which bore more than a few resemblances to The Knife. In the fall, they then debuted an even darker single called “Bellispeak”, another song full of imagery regarding the human body as everything became more twisted. Rather than release an album, they toured extensively beyond a few singles. I had the fortune of seeing them at Fun Fun Fun Fest in the fall and SXSW in the spring and was utterly captivated both times. Singer Megan James was hypnotizing as she sang alluringly while banging a gong, and producer Corin Roddick arranged a series of pipes that would light up and make sounds as he hit them in tune with the music they were playing. Their songs did all sound the same, but the sound was so utterly mesmerizing that you couldn’t help but become enveloped in their sound.
When they announced the new album, they preluded it with two more singles from it. The first song, “Obedear”, felt like late night music, full of haunting echoes and soft melodies. The second, “Fineshrine”, was more alluring, featuring a steady driving beat, and dark lyrics like “cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you”. The song was incredibly moving and featured a killer chorus, letting everyone know that Purity Ring had more than just three good songs that came out a year ago. The only downside is that at this point, we had already heard about half of the album, so it was natural to assume that the remaining six songs would not be as good. To a point, that’s true, nothing reaches the heights of “Ungirthed”, “Bellispeak”, or “Fineshrine”, but some of the unheard material comes close. “Grandloves” is a fascinating track that changes things up with guest vocals from Isaac Emmanuel of Young Magic, who adds moody and groovy melodies to expertly complement Jame’s sweet voice. Other songs are good too, such as the calming opener “Crawlersout” to the more Knife influenced “Saltkin”. Things quiet down even more on the closer “Shuck”, which is full of harmonies and emphasizes the spaces in between sounds in the way Laurel Halo did. In a sense, this album feels like a bit of an understatement when you think of how many of these songs we already heard, but to hear them all together on one disc makes you realize how talented Purity Ring is, and how great their music can be. Sure, it all sounds pretty similar, but it’s a sound that is wholly their own, one forged from many influences to create distinct music that doesn’t get old. Maybe they’ll change things up on the next one, but for now, Shrines is a strong debut from a band that arrived fully formed
- David Sackllah