Purity Ring - Shrines
By: Rob Gannon
Megan James and Corin Roddick are almost certainly masters when it comes to jigsaws as their debut Shrines seems a disparate beast sewn together with the same obsessional levels of fractured logic as are demanded by the pastime. Woven into its every popping chop are the hallmarks of people who take as much pleasure in deconstruction as they do reassembly.
The R&B, compressed snare beats and cloud pop influences of “Fineshrine”, for example, seem to have been cut apart by fast-turning blades and then put back together under the tutelage of fellow Montréalaise and practitioner of outré pop Grimes. And just like Claire Boucher, Purity Ring seem to be riding the crest of some svelte now-wave of mutant pop, evident even in the naming of their tracks where common spacing is rendered redundant.
Quite simply James and Roddick are sitting on a crossover smash with Shrines. Threatening like the credible rumour of quicksand at an idyllic beach, the calling cards of the umbrella genre that was for a while known as witch house are to be found in its every shadowy corner. Given the greatest licence to roam in this arena with its arpeggiating 808 rips and tinny skitters is the atmospheric “Amenamy”. These same signatures are nevertheless present for the tender “Grandloves” – a track on which James is at her most intangible and Roddick proffers a digitally affected rap above drawn-out bass, scuffed FX and snapping percussion. If you didn’t know better you’d be forgiven for thinking producer du jour Clams Casino had here been approved to remix any or all of the current R&B chart.
Shrines isn’t all shiny cut-and-pasting though; it has a dark core too, which is in part thanks to Roddick’s occultist production, but also thanks to devilish work by his counterfoil James. A creature of contrasts, her cherubim vocal jars in opposition to her clinical tales of horror. “Cut open my sternum and pull / My little ribs around you,” she sings in all innocence at one point and then later on “Belispeak” she implores you to “Drill little holes into my eyelids / So I can see you when I sleep.” The latter of these decidedly macabre images comes star-lit with dub pulses, tampering of the vocal and an unstoppable sense of accessibility that it just aching to blow some minds.
Entirely more sparse however, “Cartographist,” is for the most part comprised of bottom-end synth, nightmarish rattles and echoes. The opener “Crawlersout” is in turn all over the place in terms of vocal tempo and stop-time beats, yet it retains a very transparent pop vibe all the same. Another highlight, the “Obedear” blend sounds like vintage arcade soundtracking being played over smeared beats and bass-drum programme samples. Roddick here also comes into his own with brief syrupy raps and echoing, near-Gregorian chant drone. And there are plenty more chopped-and-screwed antics on the magnificent “Ungirthed” too – the childlike vocal on which dances near-nauseatingly over a busy palette of keyboard blips and slowed backing.
Shrines defiantly places the now and the future side by side and it’s thrilling to be in at the ground level as this is surely what certain strains of FM pop will be sounding like very soon. What’s certain however is that this labour of dark-hearted love will be one of the cutting-edge pop albums of the year and, given its pedigree, its assured success with be no puzzle whatsoever.
Advised downloads: “Belispeak” and “Obedear”.
Shrines is released July 23rd 2012 on 4AD .