The Strange Sound of Shrines

Formed in 2010, the combination of Corin Roddick and Megan James are better known as the Band Purity Ring. Together they create a very distinct form of dream pop that sets their music far left of many other styles in its genre. Their 2012 album Shrines is a strange record that collects many fascinating features into one overall thematically romantic but texturally dark album.

The main key to why shrines is so different is the at firs the juxtaposition of the beats and the vocals. Roddick’s low end, sample laden, often multi rhythmic backing often sounds like something that would inhabit a horrorcore track or indeed a darker electronica style. Its gothic and mysterious undertones occasionally twinkle with reflective chimes or a synth that is just over the positive line of melancholy. Mixed in with this are the soaring and elegant vocals of Megan James. Her voice sears through the black chasm of sound with a wonderful pitch. Often making irregular melodies and scaling rapidly, her alluring voice does the opposite of what the unsettling sounds in the back do. Settled into a state of tentative calm listeners will find further reasons to question the tone of the tracks.

Delivered in an incredibly disarming manner, the lyrics in Purity Rings catalogue can get incredibly dark. In fact, much of the imagery in Shrines draws on very visceral physical elements. “Drill little holes into my eyelids, so that I might see you when I sleep”, concludes the second verse in Belispeak, where a frightening depiction of a Grandma is given boundless love. In Fineshrine, which James has spoken out as being “Just a Love song.” once again the mental images it draws upon are delightfully macabre. “Cut open my sternum and pull, my little ribs around you” is a standout line that really showcases just how deeply physical the emotions can manifest. Although maybe too graphic for some this beautifully illustrated line imagines the closest of embraces and a pair of lovers being almost literally heart to heart. In here is three layers deep into their music is a gorgeous level of poetic symbolism that is as gory as it is personal, as the lyrics for this album were devised from notes out of James’ personal journal. There is no question that being able to change the stuff of slasher films into the stuff of love letters is unquestionably an art all in itself.

The bands sound and their special blend of bloodlust and optimism benefits from ambiguity. Here even the names for the tracks are compounds of lyrics squeezed together to make something incomprehensible. This may be the magic of Purity Ring, giving an outward appearance that is purely alien, (which includes their cryptic cover art) may be there to deter those uninterested in exploring further. Those who do however may get a chance to see the wonder and delight buried underneath the oily blackness on top. This unusual complexity can not be afforded to other acts in the charts, the majority of which instead have an upsettingly narrow and shallow context. With a sound that is as perplexing as its deep lyrical meaning, a custom percussion rig for its abstract electronics, and the unpredictable waver of angelic vocals, Shrines and Purity Ring themselves are astoundingly and beautifully odd.