Purity Ring Shrines
  • WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, 2012

  • Posted by: Andrew Gruttadaro

About a month ago when I was reviewing Usher's album, Looking 4 Myself, I talked about how hip-hop and indie music were slowly melding together, but I mostly meant that it was one-sided -- hip-hop was adopting indie's styles and sensibilities. It turns out I was wrong. Purity Ring's debut album, Shrines, is a prime example that indie music is just as responsible for this melding, as band members Corin Roddick and Megan James owe hip-hop a great deal for their unique sound. The songs on Shrines -- which at times sound like Clams Casino productions or early A$AP Rocky tracks -- are somewhere in the middle of a Venn diagram that features hip-hop, electro-pop, chillwave, and dubstep.

On Shrines, Roddick, who composed and produced all of the album's music, proves himself a talented beat-maker. He builds a sort of sonic sepulchre out of ethereally dark synthesizers, elaborate vocal sampling, weighty bass lines, and intricate drum machine progressions. Purity Ring is seriously concerned with getting the most they can out of their production, but that doesn't mean Roddick is afraid to drop his beat and let James' tormenting voice breathe in negative space. These songs carry palpable darkness and several of them -- namely "Fineshrine" and "Obedear" -- will take days to shake off.

Megan James' vocals and lyrics are also responsible for this unceasing feeling. Taken from passages directly out of her journals, the lyrics on Shrines are free verse in song form, abstract and without meter, open to multiple interpretations. Nothing is ever exactly what it purports to be here. James' somatic, carnal declarations are as hauntingly beautiful as they are complex. On "Fineshrine" when she sings, "Cut open my sternum and pull/My little ribs around you," you can only be impressed by the corporeal spin she puts on intimacy. The intensity expands later on "Shuck," with the lines "I'll take up your guts/To the little shed outside."

But where Purity Ring excels for sounding like nothing else out there, their album falters a little because it sounds too much like itself. There isn't much to differentiate songs from one another here, to the point that the album's many cool, seamless transitions hurt it -- they only alert the listener to how similar the tracks truly are. It's also not a good sign that "Grandloves" and "Cartographist" -- the two songs that really deviate from Purity Ring's formula -- are the album's weakest tracks. Nonetheless, Shrines displays a young band courageously jumping into the uncertain pool of indie music's rapid hybridization. They're one of the first to truly bring seemingly disparate genres together, and to do it with a level of success. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

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