Album Review

Shrines

Shrines

by Purity Ring


4AD
8 / 10
28th August, 2012

Reviewed by Courtney Sanders


Purity Ring’s debut album Shrines is a product of an explosive subculture, and as such is an arresting and important example of a place-less musical movement.

It must be a little annoying to be an electronic artist from Montreal (or anywhere, really) at the moment, as Grimes takes over the world, one fluoro dye-job at a time, eclipsing a myriad lesser-known newcomers. But the success of this one artist belies the emergence of a bonafide subculture in which a contingent of musicians are relentlessly creating, Purity Ring among them. In recent interviews both Purity Ring and Grimes noted the existence of a movement: a subconscious vision nurtured by young and like-minded experimental artists, most prominently in Montreal, but also further afield. Purity Ring’s Megan James’ suggested the sound has in fact been brewing for some time: “there are definitely people we feel a kinship with because we’re all sort of doing similar things at the same time. I think it’s time this happened, in relation to all the things that have been happening in music in the past few years - there are a lot of cross-genre things that are being made and there are a lot of things going on in terms of that.” Described as ‘post internet’, this sound is entrenched in the socio-politics of today, and Purity Ring have taken it all and framed it in a specific, delightfully thematic way to create a solid and important debut album, Shrines.

An immediate observation to be made about Shrines is the rhythmic, paced similarity of all eleven tracks. The duo of James and Corrin Roddick have made this a positive attribute by creating a definitive, fleshed-out world: expansive and lush, Shrines – by articulately marrying said sonic palette to a set of core lyrical principles - evokes organic folklore and an affiliation for all things musty, muddy, human. From opening track ‘Crawlersout’ synthesizers pulse and wash across James’ vocals Roddick’s drum machine; a comforting, paced heartbeat that the listener can count on for the album’s entirety. It sounds boring and it would be were it not simply a backbone, supporting James’ thematic observations. Nonsensical phrases like ‘Belispeak’ and ‘Lofticries’ title exactly what one imagines they would: James’ concern for how myth and reality interact. Her concerns could also easily be a weakness - like a bad re-make of The Craft (which would be really bad) or something - if not so wholly realised. Take single ‘Fineshrine’ for example: ‘cut open my sternum and poke / my little ribs around you / over the rocky cliffs that you leap / spilling threads of thunder of me’. The expansiveness of this is further exacerbated by the effect on her vocal; an electronic sprite or sorts.

For live performances Roddick has fashioned a spectre of lights that respond to the beat of each song, probably to create interest sans band mates and instruments, but arguably to provide an aesthetic accompaniment to the Purity Rings video. The music video for ‘Fineshrines’ is similarly telling: a bandaged man turns to clay as a semi-naked woman walks on water in a garden reminiscent of Ancient Greece and The Garden of Eden. There’s basically a lot of sky and grass.

Shrines isn’t faultless - ‘Grandloves’ for example has a random and unwelcome guest vocal that upsets the rhythm of the album – it’s just that they’re relatively unnoticeable within its steady, comforting nature. To use a pretty tired but appropriately visual metaphor: would you lament a single tear in your grandmother’s blanket or applaud the fact that there weren’t more, pleasantly surprised that the rest was held together so well.






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