Purity Ring debuts indie electronic album


(Courtesy of 4AD)

William Malsam

Purity Ring, a new electronic band hailing from the indie hotspot of Montreal, is a methodical monster that has discovered the perfect balance between human and machine elements. The group consists of Megan James on vocals and Corin Roddick on everything electronic. Their sound is dominated by neither, but rather by their tangible chemistry.

Its organic nature stems from the visceral imagery crafted by James. At first, her voice can be wrongfully dismissed as yet another dreamy synth-pop falsetto which merely provides ambiance or a hook, but after a few tracks one begins to notice her stark images and the intimate world in which they exist. In “Fineshrine” she sings, “Get a little closer let it fold/ Cut open my sternum and pull/ My little ribs around you,” a savage yet endearing lyric. Her tone is euphonic, but her message is often brutal. When she sings of drilling holes in her eyelids to see her lover as she sleeps or sticking toothpicks in her dirt-filled heart, it sounds more romantic than horrific.

These lyrics combine well with Roddick’s pulsating beats. Almost all of the songs are laden with side-chaining, a rhythmic volume swell applied to the bass. This makes the music heave with life, and this living, breathing quality suits James’ gut lyrics. Beyond the bass, Roddick’s compositions are meticulously built on layers of complexities: Opposing stop-start rhythms keep the listener off balance and during the instrumental breaks, Roddick erases the line between his machines and James’ voice by affecting it digitally, seamlessly blending them with synthesizers.

Due to his relentless usage of side-chaining, many of the songs sound fairly similar, but this is a positive. Purity Ring’s sonic appeal comes from the subtleties that define each song. It’s as if each song is motivated by the same dogma, only that each track approaches this same end with a unique means.

Purity Ring is an invigorating new electronic band because of their ability to manipulate popular musical elements for their unadulterated self-exhibition, one that embraces electronics and takes their music away from cold, robotic womps back to what music is truly about — human expression and emotion.