Album Review: Shrines by Purity Ring

Released July 23 via 4AD

UK-based record label 4AD signed this Edmonton, Alberta duo on April 3, 2012, and just twenty days later, the record was announced. The band consists of Megan James (24), who handles vocals/piano and Corin Roddick (21), the mastermind behind the experimental productions. The two of them steer clear of the “predominant” instrumentation roles and like to roam free. When there’s just two of you, there is endless opportunities to learn and experiment with different instruments and sounds. With Shrines, that’s exactly what they’ve done, in precise manner of course.

After the two of them left the band Born Gold, Roddick discovered a love for exploratory beats and sounds. You can place his sound somewhere in the Hip Hop/R&B/Synth/Dubstep realm. Think Lex Luger meets Zeds Dead. Listening to Shrines, you can pick apart where all the influences generate from. Playing up front at striker, James’ voice and delivery surpasses that airy dream pop sound we’ve all grown so accustomed to. Every line is conveyed with punch and purpose. You would be hard-pressed to find a track where she isn’t singing about a anatomy. Perhaps there was an ongoing metaphor during the writing process between a shrine and the body.

“Color your cartography and your dreams of me”

James touches on an array of sexual and disturbed topics with her writing style. However, it is her vocal work that makes Shrines so distinct and creepy. While Roddick’s luscious beats overflow, she exclaims  “Sea water is flowing from the middle of my thighs/Wild buffalo are dancing on cliff tops in the skies/Adorn me in feathers from dead birds and contemplate the size of leather palettes to wind me in” on the opening number. Right off the bat, if you’re not overwhelmed by the Clams Casino-esque sound, you’ll notice James has the fine ability to paint vivid pictures. From “I’ll stick red toothpicks in my dirt filled heart,” on “Grandloves” to “Glide up in my sternum and hold my little ribs around you” from the single “Fineshrine.” When I listen to this, my imagination runs completely wild. There’s a set of flashing images soaring through my mind that I gaze at with every listen. It’s easy to go on for days about the descriptive language she uses, matched with the puzzle-piece fitting haunting productions, but i’ll leave you some surprises.

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