Purity Ring – ShrinesPosted by Allen Huang
In the modern ecosystem of electronic pop music, there exists a subset of musicians who are attempting to capture the introverted, self-aware emotions that rumble beneath the surface of the rave era. This desire is different from “nostalgia,” in that it is not fueled by a need to return but rather a need to establish distance. Artists such as Elite Gymnastics and Korallreven use dance music tropes in order to explore the other side of the PLUR movement: isolation and ennui. The hedonistically positive PLUR movement was televised, regurgitated, rehashed and repackaged for mass consumption, crashing down on those who believed in its infallibility. The newly christened “EDM” movement’s attempts to recreate this visceral, physical closeness end up as perversions, separating the hearts of its admirers even more. Peace Love Unity Respect may live through mixtapes, YouTube videos, art projects and mp3s, but there is no going back.
Montreal duo Purity Ring successfully taps into the same sentimental vein as the post-ravers mentioned above. Shrines is full of accessible, danceable beats, pitch-shifted ruminations on life and love, and big, lonely crescendos that capture the “alone-in-a-crowd” moment effectively. Megan James’ plaintive and resonant wail meshes superbly with the biting trap-rolls of Corin Roddick. But after the opening of this door comes a morose numbness, an unshakable lull that thoroughly underwhelmes. Ultimately it’s this murky feeling that undermines how enjoyable Shrines could be, despite Purity Ring’s concerned effort to make something both accessible and full of feeling.
Shrines stays headstrong in its efforts to establish and maintain this specific mood. From the first notes of ethereal banger “Crawlersout” to the choppy melody of “Amenamy” to the elegiac closer “Shuck,“ Purity Ring’s tone never shifts more than a few shades of gray. James’ lyrics flow as a stream of consciousness, never fixating on a single subject but rather strafing over metaphors and images like a ghost. Shrines is full of drama and emotion, but after it’s midway point you’re left wondering if there’s any actual thought behind this mood piece. Palettes and shapes are presented, but the space isn’t explored as much as glossed over.
While their early YouTube singles such as “Lofticries” generated much well-deserved buzz, a year later the band has yet to show much growth. While asking for rapid development from a debut album might be asking much, the delicate and subtle emotions unearthed intentionally by Purity Ring’s sound in their nature require some extraordinary dynamics in order to remain interesting. The resulting samey-ness of their full-length is akin to viewing an art gallery featuring the same exquisite painting in every room, but with different lighting and alignment. For all it’s complexities and attention to details, Shrines ends up unsatisfyingly simple.
It’s hard to say whether Purity Ring came up short of ideas, or were too aesthetically ambitious for their own good. What remains is that, despite their ability to tap into this elusive emotional vein, the band is unable to refine their art on Shrines. And because these influences are so far removed from the optimism of the original PLUR movement, all that remains are echoes, syndicated replays of a past repeated on streaming sites, Tumblrs and in VHS players. Growth and comprehension need to occur, otherwise we are left with a fleeting positivity which is quickly replaced by disconcerting remorse.