On the 4th of September, 2011, an unexpected marketing technique brought a sparkling new duo from Canadian’s diamond mining city of Edmonton over a million YouTube hits resulting in fast exposure. The video posted by Jessica Viscusie promoted an enthralling and lush track called “Lofticries” accompanied by a seductive photograph of a woman dressed in lingerie inside a hotel room. The idea worked and since then, Purity Ring have inspired other musicians such as Chvrches, MSMR and Banks, moved from hipster secrets to Radio 1 playlisters, headlined intense tour schedules in the UK and developed a devoted fan base.
Music critics fell in love with their experimental brand of dark dream-pop, unpredictable warped futuristic glitch, unconventional song structures and how it suffocated the sweet yet chopped vocals of singer Megan James. Their sound developed the electronic hysterics of compatriots Grimes and the late Crystal Castles and turned it into music that could be equally relaxing and danceable in an indie club, whilst also adopting the contrasting deep voice alteration technique from the likes of The Knife and Iamamiwhoami. They were always willing to experiment and explore new possibilities and constantly surprise the listener.
Due to the premature ingenuity, timing and accolades of debut album Shrines, their follow up Another Eternity was always going to have trouble pleasing their fans with a backlash of upset Purity-Ringers already surfacing on the internet just days after its release. Another Eternity is not light years away from their debut but it lacks it’s crucial multi-dimensional quality, unpredictable mood changes, tempo intermissions, and unique contrast between light and dark moments. It takes the lighter poppier moments and extends them into something that’s shockingly more accessible and swallow-able for mainstream audiences.
Take for instance the teaser single “Push Pull“, a song that feels consistently glittery and follows a predictable structure of verse and chorus with crescendo-building drops and bridges. It also doesn’t help that the lyrics feel laboured and forced to match it’s accompany beats rather than comfortable and patient. As the voice constantly tries to catch up with the pace of the music rather than the over way around.
“Bodyache” further exemplifies the same problem and adds Guetta-pumping basslines, whilst worryingly taking all the soul and personality from Megan’s voice leaving a stale emotionless shadow. The signs weren’t too promising from the beginning though with the irritating default and commonly used EDM effects of rapid machine-gun drum hits and bee-moaning on opener “Heartsigh“. The squeaky Avicii disorientation on “Flood On The Floor” and the Akon-auto-tune laziness of the suitably titled “Repetition” will give shivers down the spine of a hipster. On the evidence of these tracks, Purity Ring have become imitators rather than trend-setters and they threaten to become indistinguishable from Top 40 pop music.
On a positive note, Purity Ring have to be admired at least for attempting some kind of evolution rather than creating an identical album. “Begin Again” is the closest in style to anything off Shrines, but adds a trance thrust that’s addictive and rewarding along with Noah’s Ark themed lyrics. “Dust Hymn” has an Arabian Hip Hop flavour, “Sea Castle” unusually includes piano and “Stranger Than Earth” borrows the alternative R&B/Trip-Hop steadiness of FKA Twigs’ “Two Weeks” but unfortunately, it all returns back their current obsessive penchant for Eurodance transformations.
Just like the first album Shrines, they are completely in charge on the production side of things so it’s obvious that this is their desired direction. This unrestrained decision is also shown by their album title and the new-born lyrics in “Begin Again”. It will bring them stardom but at the risk of alienating their original fans. Hopefully this style won’t stay for eternity. Purity Ring’s Another Eternity is out now via 4AD, purchase it here.
Words by Matt Hobbs // Edited by Ayo Adepoju