It’s midnight on a Saturday night. I should’ve started this review hours ago, I’d fully intended on doing so. However, once I’d wriggled myself out of the on and off sleep of a hangover, I instead took to watching the Olympics opening ceremony, on BBC iPlayer, and taking back the majority of my derogatory comments made against it when not watching it in a number public houses last night.
It was impressive. What can I say? Though a waste of money, time and resources and I shall in no way be watching any of the rest of the Olympics, it was impressive. Also, because it’s nice to know we the people of the world can all gather in one place without shooting several shades of shit out of each other. Plus it pissed off the right wingers.
Then I took to reading Animal Farm by George Orwell, front to back, and opening the first bottle of wine. Counterproductive as my day has been (though in no way can reading Animal Farm ever be considered counterproductive of anything), I couldn’t’ve inadvertently stumbled upon a more perfect time to listen to and review Shrines, the debut album of Purity Ring.
Purity rings (also known as chastity rings, abstinence rings, or promise rings) are worn as a sign of chastity. The practice originated in the United States in the 1990s among Christian-affiliated sexual abstinence groups. Wearing a purity ring is typically accompanied by a religious vow to practice abstinence until marriage.
Torn fresh from Wikipedia, the lazy man’s researcher, the actual meaning for the band’s name and its connotations couldn’t be further from the truth in attachment to Purity Ring themselves.
Comprised of Megan James on vocals and Corin Roddick on everything else, the sound these pair make is far from pure, far from innocent. Whilst there is a heavenly quality to the sounds Roddick produces, and James’ vocals ring somewhere between childlike and angelic, these songs are far more likely to encourage than discourage, the unity between man and woman, woman and man, man and man, woman and woman, whatever and whatever.
Though so too are they likely to soundtrack everything else that goes alongside that act; love, lust, obsession, heartbreak, anguish and self-harming in the rain in the dead of night.
For a debut, Shrines is incredibly comfortable and confident in its own sound. Unwavering even. Crawlersout starts things accordingly with ethereal synths as steadily a very modern hop hop beat builds underneath it alongside brooding low-end synths. James’ vocals and lyrics seal the deal though, her sweet and quirky vocal brings to mind Lykke Li, and her lyrics meld morbid imagery and romanticism wonderfully.
The pair initially started out as members of Born Gold, or as it was known then Gobble Gobble, before Roddick started experimenting with more hip hop and RnB influenced beats and asked James to sing atop them. So Purity Ring was formed, and by track two Fineshrine you couldn’t be more grateful for it. The lead single and perhaps one of the most perfect moments on the album, I could easily consider it one of my songs of the year. Sexy, sultry, smouldering and shoegazey as the synths and beat are when James sings ‘get a little closer, let it fold, cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you’ I can’t help but melt.
I say Shrines is an album that is not just confident but comfortable in its sound, for good reason, because Purity Ring have a sound and their not afraid to mine it. However this is not a detraction, because what they mine, is great, just great. Though whilst it is of the same spirit, it does vary.
Ungirthed uses the core elements of their sound but amps up the hip hop and house elements, sounding deep and dark musically but the girly vocal delivery pull it from the brink and offer it an accessible indie/electro quality. Amenamy too sounds like some kind of offspring of The Knife and the shortlived (for the moment) witch house movement as it builds layers out of synths, beats, sequences and treated vocals used as instruments.
The Big Pink promised that with their follow up to A Brief History of Love that they’d deliver a hip hop album, they didn’t, they delivered a brief disappointment. However, Grandloves feat. Young Magic is the sound of the album they promised but didn’t make. With Young Magic it sounds so obscenely Big Pink, but better, more smouldering, more hip hop, more romantic, more hypnotic.
Cartographist delivers a further experiment of cut and paste electro but riding on a slow grinding basically dubstep bass, giving perhaps the final outcome of post-dup, as ever really sold by James’ pure vocals. Belispeak takes this bass theme further, and yet somehow makes the vocals girlier and cuter, I don’t know why but ‘for when my belly, for when my little belly speaks’ makes me shiver in a good way, and Roddick’s instrumentation is like an obsecenly slowed down intense techno. Including a cut and paste section that almost sounds like The Macarena.
Though Purity Ring quite clearly have a well that they’re more than happy to keep dropping buckets in and bringing the water out of, they do it in such a manner that it doesn’t seem repetitive. Roddick clearly has one hell of a knack for production, creating such a dense and layered sound that loses none of its seductiveness, even its darkness and occasional haunting line. The song’s are always pulled out of the darkness though by James’ vocals, even if her lyrics live freely in that darkness.
A hypnotic and seductive debut, that I could quite happily live stoned inside of for an indefinite period of time.