In an age where we feel the need for every artist to be categorically pigeon-holed into an easily distinguishable genre tag, it is always refreshing when someone like Purity Ring comes along. Where do they fit in? Chillwave? Electro pop? Indie Electro? Who cares, right? Especially when the Montreal duo of Megan James and Corin Roddick are producing an album of this calibre. What we have here in Shrines is an album that effortlessly and beautifully juxtaposes Roddick’s cut up electronics with James’ sickly sweet vocals, which coalesce to produce eleven astonishing ‘pop’ pleasures.
Opener ‘Crawlersout’ slowly eases you in to the record with its celestial synth riff over an electronic snare beat. You cannot help but feel that a girl with vocals as innocent and pure as Megan’s should not be singing lyrics as eerie as “They’ll weave their own souls/ Into the frame to grow their foliage in / They’ll sew their own hands / Into their beds to keep them crawlers out.” However, this is but an introduction to the type of unnerving poetry that is entwined in to the rest of album.
‘Grandloves’ sees Roddick take to the mic to accompany James with the lead vocals over the kind of beat that has come to be synonymous with Purity ring, featuring an endlessly meandering and arpeggigiating keyboard riff, the likes of which can also be found in the albums standout track, ‘Lofticries.’ Previously released as the B-side on the Ungirthed EP, the track shows that it has far more substance that your typical B-side track.
Tinny snare beats, reverbed hand claps and thick, bassy synthesisers have become all too common these days, but the way Roddick manipulates his makes them glide in and out of each other smoothly, yet maintain an intriguing irregularity. The way James sings her lyrics is hypnotising, and sung in an even tone that could easily be described as remote and distant if they were not so perfectly ethereal and mesmerising.
After listening to the record numerous times and minutes of torturous brain-racking thought, I am still no closer to deciding upon Purity Ring’s genre. Shrines is an album that somehow manages to be relaxed and laid back, whilst constantly maintaining a sense of tension and unease, and we are still trying to figure out how that is even possible. Purity Ring has offered us by far the most unnerving album of 2012 so far, and my god is it fantastic.
Shrines is released on July 24th, through 4AD Records, and you can listen to it here.
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