When Purity Ring posted ‘Push Pull’, the first track from their second album, ‘Another Eternity’, on YouTube last December, a ding-dong broke out among commenters about how to define the kind of music the Canadian duo – producer Corin Roddick and vocalist/lyricist Megan James – make. You could label their beat-heavy but sweetly melodic sound trap, indie, electro, witch-house or dreampop and be accurate on all counts.
You’d imagine Purity Ring – who formed in Edmonton, Canada in 2010 – enjoy being hard to define. At their core they’re an electronic pop group, but they’re signed to 4AD, a label with a fiercely strong indie tradition. They’ve remixed Lady Gaga’s ‘Applause’ and collaborated with Danny Brown (on their own ‘Bellispeak II’ and the Detroit rapper’s ’25 Bucks’), yet there’s a DIY quality to what they do, including touring – mobile disco-style – with a touch-triggered lighting rig. ‘Another Eternity’ is a far more mainstream-sounding album than their 2012 debut ‘Shrines’, but it’s also rooted in sounds from the underground. Some of the tracks here, such as ‘Stranger Than Earth’ and ‘Dust Hymn’, are built on elemental beats that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Lil Wayne mixtape.
On the other hand, the single ‘Begin Again’ has a drop that pulls from EDM and risks making Purity Ring sound like Swedish DJ megastar Avicii. For fans of ‘Shrines’, it’s initially off-putting, but you soon get used to Purity Ring positioning themselves closer to the FM pop zeitgeist and there are plenty of songs (‘Bodyache’, ‘Push Pull’, ‘Repetition’) that are just good tunes, regardless of which genre they slip into, or out of.
As you can guess from many of the titles (‘Heartsigh’, ‘Dust Hymn’, ‘Stillness In Woe’), James’ lyrics are still highly impressionistic, and sometimes impenetrable. “Don’t forget the way she pushed water inside”, she sings on the skidding ‘Flood On The Floor’, “She took your face and called it her choir/Knitting lace out of lashes powdered with ashes”. Gibberish, you could argue, but somehow the imagery works across a record that, like ‘Shrines’, chooses feel first and finishes with the band’s gift for sensuality and mystery intact.
- Director: Purity Ring
- Record label: 4AD
- Release date: 02 Mar, 2015