When Megan James wrote “Dead voices cover their bones/ Refill their quiet tones with vessels of earth/ and the cry of detritioning bones”, she never expected it would make its way out of her personal writings and onto a track entitled, “Ungirthed”. Nor did the pianist expect that she’d be half of a hip-hop inspired synth pop band, but in 2010 she and trained drummer, Corin Roddick abandoned their live instruments and formed “future-pop” band Purity Ring.
“Ungirthed” was our first taste of the Canadian duo’s sound when it dropped in early 2011. Attraction is immediate to the pinging beats and droning bass, but then James’ eerie vocals hit the ear canal and automatically dash any concern of repetitive sampling on a cliched electronica track.
Between “Ungirthed”‘s release and the drop of Shrines, Purity Ring released three other singles: With its groaning keyboards, “Belispeak” was released later in 2011, followed by “Obedear” and “Fineshrine” in 2012. Each track offered more of a glimpse into the band’s capability of experimentation and exceptionally diverse songwriting. Finally, after much anticipation, Purity Ring’s debut album, Shrines, was released on July 24th- and surpassed the hype the singles had created for the band.
Shrines is constructed with James’ invented lingua as admission into a cold, desert soundscape haunted by the ringing voice of a youthful
siren. Roddick’s hip-hop and R&B influenced beats pound with an electronic drum and rattle with hydraulic bass shifts creating a desolate, inhuman world as James’ chilling vocals ignite the atmosphere with ghostly emotion. Dark, raw emotion.
James pulls her lyrics from a personal collection of journals and writings; her deepest, darkest, most gruesome and raw musings she never thought the world would hear, and sews them into Roddick’s swelling layers of synth. The album is dense with macabre lyrics that could be straight out of a horror movie: On “Shuck”, James croons, “When the moon is full and I’ve pried/ I’ll take up your guts to the little shed outside” and on “Fineshrine”- in a terrifyingly casual cry- suggests, “Get a little closer, let it fold/ Cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you”.
The lyrical journey through Purity Ring’s debut album is triumphantly gory, but they also succeed in juxtaposing a pop melody with a collage of precisely arranged synth. The band coined and self-proclaimed themselves “future-pop”; in this day of electronica and dustep, perhaps this is, in fact, the direction that pop is headed.
-Amanda “The Bearded Lady” Best