Purity Ring are so emblematic of teenage love rollercoasters and endless highschool dayze that even their name references a Christian ceremony performed by whacked out adolescents in the Deep South. In the same way that Best Coast captured the angst of perennial summer on ‘Boyfriend’, Purity Ring plumb the depths of hope and hopelessness with considerable finesse. Their lyrics are twisted, their rhythms, a stuttering collection of trap and Swedish electronica influences, are engrossing, and their melodies are – excuse the pun – divine. The sort of band I’d heard whispers about from the Remote Control camp (who also have the pleasure of putting out the new xx record in a matter of weeks) but hadn’t fully investigated, and then seemingly out of nowhere comes not only ‘Fineshrine’ but an entire album’s worth of the stuff that completely knocked me sideways. Really, we could have chosen any of the tracks, but this is the one you’ll be hearing a lot of in the coming weeks, so it’s best to get on board the zeitgeist train early.
Once again proving that outside of Brisbane, most of One A Day’s favourite artists (Arcade Fire, Stars, Memoryhouse, The Stills) are Canadian, Purity Ring hail from Montreal. I like to think of them a bit like what would happen if you took Sleigh Bells and got them really, really stoned; there’s the same kind of distorted, tricked-out aggression happening, but it’s disguised between layers of synths and a slower tempo. Vocalist Megan James, with her sweet-as-Menu-Suvari-in-American-Beauty tone, transcends the adorable mess of crashing, skittering beats that sound like they’d be more at home on a Lil Wayne joint. It’s the kind of aesthetic that seems to make perfect sense and absolutely no sense at the same time; the whitest kids in the room messing about with some seriously heavy, mutated updates of R&B. And yet, this.
‘Fineshrine’, for all the happy/sad melodic lines and carousel samples is actually a seriously twisted piece of music. Obviously after four years of doing this, I’m not new to the concept of nice things actually disguising horrible messages (hello Elliott Smith), but somehow Purity Ring’s sonics very nearly trip me up. It’s only after rewinding a few times and getting the words down that you realise that in this particular graduation ballad, James is actually inviting her paramour to break open her sternum, wrap himself in her ribs and make himself at home. It’s delivered so effortlessly and without a hint of irony, like when Dexter shakes the hand of a suspect he’ll later murder. It’s actually really interesting, especially given the method of delivery (those beats are nothing if not blunt and bass heavy) and a decent twist on that ‘get under my skin’ line without being so specific it makes me feel ill. The greatest films and TV shows of the ’90s were based around the supernatural, after all, so it’s nice that in updating the sound, Purity Ring bring the essence of horror and hormones along for the ride. For two musicians, Purity Ring can make one hell of a statement; drums ping everywhere, cynbals are ground into dust through processers and backing vocals are fed through keyboards until they become part of the fabric. It’s probably the most interesting thing I’ve heard all month, and links in nicely to what I said about Bertie Blackman the other day, too.
So go on, open your ribs and let Purity Ring in. They’ll be yours for life.
Purity Ring – ‘Fineshrine’