Monday, February 18, 2013

Shrines - Purity Ring (Album)

Purity Ring
Electropop is a musical genre that blends traditional pop motifs with mostly or purely electronic instrumentation. Not everyone can get behind it, and I understand that, but before you turn away in disgust from the word "pop", hear me out. It's not all shallow; there is a range of talent here, just like with everything else.

Near the top of this electropop talent pyramid is Canadian duo Purity Ring, formed in 2010. Their only album so far, "Shrines" is a perfect example of how something of great depth can come from anywhere, even something connected to the word "pop"*. Along the same lines as another recent post, Purity Ring uses the pop genesis as a spring board for experimentation and humor. Like metric substitutions, PR plays with our preconceptions, both musically and lyrically.

Lines like "Get a little closer, let fold...Cut open my sternum, and pull my little ribs around you," and "I'm sick of this, you're sick of that, I'm not as dumb as that," punctuated with "my sacred pining whims, my sacred pining whims" give us an interesting blend of the expected ("get a little closer", "around you", "I'm sick of this") and the unusual ("Cut open my sternum", "my sacred pining whims"). In an artistic landscape where the word "heart" itself has practically become cliched, we find "I'll stake rare toothpicks in my dirt-filled heart". The lyrics here alternate between commonplace and sweet lines, to whimsically dark passages such as "They'll cover the hills with their sweet flesh and soft nails. They'll cover the doors with the screens that their minds disposed," and "Grandma, I've been unruly, in my dreams and with my speech. Drill little holes into my eyelids that I might see you when I sleep."
"Shrines" album cover.
In the music itself there is an interesting tension between sullen and fun. A very similar synth faux-vocal instrument technique is used in every track on the album, (if that phrase is at all confusing just listen to ten or twenty seconds of any one of their songs) which of course carries with it the danger of the album sounding "samey". Obviously, bands want to have a style of their own, but they can take a lot of heat for every song sounding the same. Some groups, like Chevelle or Prong, embrace their "style"; others try to make as many different kinds of songs as they can. Think of Purity Ring as more in the first camp: they have a sound, they like that sound, the songs are simply variations on that sound. You can have any opinion on this you please, but keep in mind that no one would complain of a solo artist using the same acoustic guitar in all the songs on one album. The synth technique used here is really just another instrument. Granted, the tracks on "Shrines" do kind of run together, but I feel that is intentional.

All in all, a great album for anybody out there looking for something new.

-MA 2.18.13

*Attn. people from Idaho or wherever, please quit calling soda "pop", no one likes it.

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