Purity Ring – Shrines (4ad; 2012)
By Matthew Law:“A beacon of hope”
The debut album by the newly founded Canadian duo is hard to categorize. When listening to Shrines there are moments of modern electronica, art rock, and synthpop, but they all combine to create a very unique sound.
The instrumental work by Corin Roddick is quite exceptional, and his talent for a beat is clear despite the fact that he is not using traditional instruments. His evident skill and technical ability make the sound his own, which is impressive given the amount of over-rated acts in the mainstream music scene that use often deliberately derivative backing tracks and repetitive instrumental sections. Even at live shows Roddick lives up to this, by not just playing his tracks pre-recorded on a turntable, but by playing them on an unnamed instrument of his own design – an instrument which is not dissimilar to a mechanical tree with lights.
The vocals by Megan James are equally outstanding. They are ethereal and relaxing, but with an intensity that give her lyrics vigour and life. Her singing is beautiful, and is easily comparable with Ellie Goulding or Emily Kokal.
The album, as a whole, is rather brilliant. There are moments when it is hard to believe that this is a debut album, as there seems to be so much experience in the production and crafting of the music.
“Crawlersout” and “Amenamy” are two stand-out tracks, illustrations of the mixture of softness, intensity and power that the band has created. On the fifth track, “Grandloves“, vocals are sampled from the Young Magic track “You With Air.” For those who already know “You With Air”, the first listen to “Grandloves” will leave an odd taste – due to how dissimilar it is to the original – but approach it with an impartial ear and you will find it to be extremely satisfying; a nice homage to a band who has inspired Purity Ring.
This album is a beacon of hope for modern music. This is easily one of my favourite albums in the electronic genre since Little Boots released Handsin 2009, and reminds me (albeit a calmer experience) of the first time I listened to Nine Inch Nails. By that I mean, it is unique and nonconforming, and you will you lust for more.