An air of mystery lingers as I delve into the wonders of electro-pop group Purity Ring. When you google the name, you get your generic definitions and links to sites & stores who sell pieces of jewelry that represents a vow of abstinence until marriage. But when you google for Purity Ring, the group, you’re left with misty photos, astonishing interviews, and an array of music releases.
The anticipation I had for this group came in early 2011 when Ungirthed was first released. The song starts off with scintillating synths that intertwine with a hip-hop rhythm underneath and low-pitched ghostly voices. I’m a sucker for any good beat, but what really sold me was the soft, child-like voice of Megan James who lightens up the darker sound. Throughout the song, James’ vocals are playfully battling with all the other elements, causing her to sound distant at times, but once the song nears the end, she’s clear and vivacious. And BOOM I was hooked.
I saw Purity Ring live at Black Cat in DC when all they had were three songs. Their stage presence was enigmatic. Roddick made spastic synths and stomach churning bass come out of this tree-like creation while James stiffly danced in front of a homemade backdrop as she held a large lamp in one hand and pounded a drum with the other. With so few releases, I stood there quietly anticipating what they could possibly do next. I bobbed my head amongst a sea of people who shared the same fascination for the abstruse group. They drew you in and didn’t let you go until you demanded for more and that’s what we did. I fell for them hard then and due to my need to relive the sweet nostalgia, I looked up their setlist from a recent show. I became immediately elated when I saw they opened with Cartographist. It starts off with a flickering synth and this deep haunting vocal that trails in and out. Then Megan comes in almost whispering with her angelic voice, which offsets the already bass-heavy vocals. The sound is mesmerizing and you can’t help but feel like she’s got a spell on you, but then the beat drops and you’re released, yet you’ll find yourself trying to feel that rush again. It’s that sort of back and forth game both James and Roddick play throughout the album.
Shrine’s holds a certain confidence to it. It’s safe to say Purity Ring have paved their way in a genre that can be redundant and lackluster if the creativity doesn’t evolve. Though Purity Ring may have prematurely released all their singles before the album dropped, they still have songs that dominate individually without overpowering each other when played together.
One track that holds true to form is Grandloves. Roddick really outdid himself by infusing R&B with electro-pop to create this sultry, slow-tempo sound that’s sure to hit the soul. Then Young Magic’s feature adds that true R&B element with his crooning vocals and fervent lyrics “I’m in love with truth and sick and tired of this youth, and thinking that you’re falling, but you’re stalling when you’re holding me.” I’ve grown tired of how monotonous R&B has become and this style Roddick has created is a change of scenery that this faltering genre so badly needs. Even their more simplistic, slow-paced track Shuck which maintains an effortlessly laidback tempo with less glittery synths and more wavering background vocals holds it’s own weight.
With that being said, we truly have to appreciate the dynamics James and Roddick bring to this duo. James’ ethereal vocals are like a security blanket that shields the listener from being completely drowned by the dark, yet alluring beats that accompany each song. And the morbid romanticism of her lyrics provides evocative imagery all the while giving the listener much needed room for interpretation. Roddick on the other hand, provides production on this album that is fresh and innovative. He takes hip-hop/R&B influences and layers it with emotion and drama without clouding the sound. The music is haunting and dark, yet still playfully seductive.
The Canadian-duo who originally started off as GOBBLE GOBBLE, have solidified their place in a growing genre that prides itself on unorthodox methods that conceive the most unique sound. “Shrines” is undoubtedly one of the top 10, if not 5 best albums in 2012.