The name may conjure up images of The Jonas Brothers, but Canadian witch house duo Purity Ring produce the kind of unsettling creepy electronica that would give the squeaky-clean former Disney trio nightmares.
Formed in Edmonton in 2010, producer Corin Roddick, previously a drummer with post-rock outfit Gobble Gobble (now Born Gold), and trained pianist-turned-bewitching chanteuse Megan James became the darlings of the blogosphere after uploading a futuristic blend of skittering hip-hop beats, gleaming synth hooks and woozy wobble bass-lines entitled “Ungirthed” early last year.
Compared to everyone from The Knife to Aaliyah to future labelmate Grimes, their noirish take on the sub-genre coined ‘post-R&B’ inspired Pitchfork to name Purity Ring as the Best New Band of 2011, led to support slots with Neon Indian and Com Truise, and attracted the attention of British indie label 4AD, who released their first studio effort, Shrines, this week.
Luckily, despite living at opposite ends of the country during much of the recording, the pair have come together to produce a record that justifies the hype. Featuring 11 songs titled in a gobbledygook language (“Lofticries,” “Crawlersout”), the majority of which are twisted fairytales based on the diary entries of a teenage James, Purity Ring have created a wholly unique world that is as sinister as it is enchanting.
Indeed, James may possess the floaty ethereal tones of a young Liz Fraser, as best displayed on the Bjork-ish avant-garde pop of “Amenamy,” the doom-laden dub of “Cartographist” and the woozy slow jam of “Grandloves.” But with lyrics such as “cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you” (“Fineshrine”) and “drill little holes into my eyelids that I might see you in my sleep” (“Belispeak”), she also has a macabre streak that sometimes borders on the unhinged.
In another set of hands, her warped way with words might have come across as gimmicky, but Roddick’s inventive production, part 8-bit electronica, part Southern hip-hop, part Timbaland-esque R&B, ensures there’s substance to their style.
And while most bedroom-pop outfits often struggle to transfer their insular sound to a live setting, Purity Ring are fast becoming one of the must-see fledgling electronica acts, largely thanks to Roddick’s custom-built synthesiser, which cleverly uses eight touch-sensitive miniature lanterns to trigger single notes.
There are so many DIY electropop acts currently clamouring for attention that it’s impossible to predict whether Purity Ring will be one of the few to break through, but there’s unlikely to be anyone as strangely charming.