Purity Ring: Shrines

By Guest Contributor Kim Bates

October 2nd, 2012

Released by Last Gang Records July 24, 2012
Website: Click Here

I don’t normally listen to a ton of electronic music. It’s not for a lack of choice or opportunity; I just hadn’t sat down and really explored what it had become over the last few years. About a month ago a friend told me to listen to Purity Ring, comprised of Edmonton natives Corin Roddick and Megan James, and since then they have held a significant spot on my summer/early fall play list. Their debut album Shrines came out at the end of July and it beautifully layers the seemingly contradictory sounds of 808 percussion and pingy synthesizer beats beneath James’ angelic and ghostly vocals. With this unique blend of sounds it’s not surprising that there has been a lot of interest in them from some pretty influential music sources. Pitchfork named them one of their “must sees” at 2012’s SXSW and among 2012’s Most Anticipated LPs, and with this type of buzz they are building an impressive following in the UK as well.

It has been the trend now for a while for talented prairie musicians to move east to produce their music in Montreal. Purity Ring, are yet another example (however, James now calls Halifax home.) Living in different cities they collaborate mostly over email, working on tracks for weeks or even months until the duo is confident they’ve perfected the song. This also explains why they had been releasing singles slowly over the course of 8 months prior to the album’s release. Roddick and James’ methodical and dedicated approach not only helped generate a definite sense of anticipation for what was to come, but also allowed them to create pieces that flow together seamlessly and display a genuinely unique, alluring, and addictive sound throughout the entire album.

Two songs that caught my attention are “Fineshrine” and “Ungirthed.” I don’t always pay close attention to lyrics when I’m first listening to a song but “Fineshrines” creates some really fascinating imagery that immediately caught my interest – particularly in the chorus. Roddick complements James’ lyrics with thoughtful musical interludes that provide the listener with an opportunity to reflect on what they are hearing. He has a definite knack for knowing how to place pauses and build background instrumentals to enhance the lyrical imagery.

“Ungirthed” was the first single released off the album. I really like how Roddick uses a mix of vocals to build a seemingly complex, layered sound that develops in the introduction, and continues throughout. It draws the listener into music that, again, truly compliments James’ voice and lyrics. This song, while upon first listen seems to be a decidedly electro-pop tune, when deconstructed, contains some sounds that I might not classify as such. These are definitely skilled minds that are able to combine such disparate elements so seamlessly.

Signed to the British indie label 4AD and Canada’s Last Gang Records, I’m sure we’ll continue to hear more and more from Purity Ring particularly as they have wrapped up their tour opening for the Dirty Projectors, and are now headlining a cross country tour. From what I’ve read, their live performances are equally as impressive as their recorded ones, so I’m sure a strong and loyal fan base will continue to grow.

Currently located in Edmonton, Kim Bates worked for several years in art galleries in and around Vancouver before making the switch to the far more glamorous career of librarian. While a bit of a generalist it can be said that she has a pretty strong interest in independent music, graphic novels and things made out of yarn.

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