Purity Ring – Shrines (4AD)
July 20, 2012 by Daniel Gill
Imagine walking into a graveyard on a humid night, you see flashing lights coming from a large crypt. It’s not just lights though, it’s a thudding drum beat, the kind of drum beat that you would expect to hear from a Swishahouse records producer or an up and coming rapper from the dirty south. When you get a little closer, eerie synths and chopped up samples become more prominent, the kind of samples that sound like a deformed human voice. A creepy sound that would chill the spine of the softest hearts if played by itself with no beat in the background. This would probably scare a lot of people away, however there’s one thing that keeps you enticed. A girl’s voice sings over the top of this music gorgeously, like a dark angel. The girl’s voice doesn’t change the tone of the music, it just sits atop of the sound, like that ghoulish mist you see in a graveyard in classic horror films. She pulls you into what you think is a party for spirits long forgotten, but instead it’s the new sound of 2012. It’s Purity Ring.
It’s those haunting vocals of lead singer Megan James along with the superb production from Corin Roddick which make up Purity Ring. Both of them bring something to the table; it’s not just Roddick’s sharp beat construction which you listen to the album for. And it’s not James’ hypnotizing voice you stay for. It’s the combination of the two, there seems to be a musical love affair happening between what both members give to the album. One would be lost without the other.
Roddick’s production on this album is absorbing to the point where it will make you stop and listen out for certain techniques or traits he has picked up from other genres. He borrows thunderous snares and claps from different styles of hip hop music. The hi hats you hear in ‘Fineshrines’ sound like they were borrowed straight from a Young Jeezy track. Then the booming bass you hear in ‘Obedear’ sounds similar to Massive Attack’s production from their Mezzanine era. Roddick blends these ferocious beats with an array of vocal samples which you presume come from either himself or singer Megan James. These chopped up samples are a key factor in Purity Ring’s style, it’s like an extra instrument in Roddick’s arsenal.
Over the visceral sounds floats James’ vocals, which never seem to bore or put you off the music. Maybe this is to do with the obscure but intimate lyrical content she provides through this album. James speaks using her body language; it’s literally language about the body. You had a suspicion of this when you came across song titles such as ‘Belispeak’ and ‘Ungirthed’, however it goes further than this in songs like ‘Fineshrine’ and ‘Crawlersout’. “Cut open my sternum and put my little ribs around you” she chirps in ‘Fineshrine’, these lyrics just add to the dark texture of the album. She sings these gruesomely themed lyrics so delicately that they enter your ears as if they were some standard pop song lyrics that you hear on the radio every day.
Describing Purity Ring’s sound is something that many blog’s have seemed to struggle with. Is it a fresh sound? Or is it just an evolution of Witchhouse? A sub-genre which has always teetered on the edge of breaking into commercial territory, with the help of Salem and company. Admittedly it does have the same style as this dark sub-genre, but Purity Ring seem to be so much more than this. It seems to be the joint effort of both members of the group who make Purity Ring such a creative and innovative new force in the music scene. A dark and haunting force which you shouldn’t be too scared to embrace.