You know, I was really skeptical about Purity Ring at first. How many more guy-girl duos with loose "dream pop" and "synthetic beats" tags did I really need? Terms like "witch house" and "electropop" were also being thrown around which had me hopelessly confusing them with White Ring, the guy-girl duo out of NYC. I entered my first listen with low expectations and didn't anticipate making it past the first few tracks before I'd go back to something I presumed to be more important. Within a few minutes that closed mind was like a clam being opened with a crowbar. Forget about it. I'm hooked.
One can't discuss Shrines without mentioning the lyrical content. Frontwoman Megan James began scribbling poetry when she was 16 without any expectation of anyone else ever coming in to contact with these deeply personal and often surreal texts. The first track greets the listener with the phrase "Adorn me in feathers from dead birds". The second with a chorus containing "cut open my sternum and pull my little ribs around you". "Belispeak" addresses the narrator's grandma with the lyric "Drill little holes into my eyelids that I might see you when I sleep". Some of the lines in "Saltkin" read as if they're straight from a black metal song.
Production is key to this kind of music and Corin Roddick, the other half of the duo, doesn't fool around. He uses techniques that are distinctively 2012 - warped vocal samples that have been lowered an octave, an unabashed affinity for slinky hi-hat-centric beats like those found in trap and Memphis style hip-hop, and lots and lots of side-chain compression. Many layers of huge synthesizers and samples twisted beyond recognition add to the opaque collage that fills the space not occupied by Megan James' sweet voice. Comparisons to Clams Casino have merit.
The uninitiated but interested should heed this reviewer's recommendation: there are many times to listen to this album, and during daylight is not one of them. Shrines is a late-nighter all the way through. It's the kind of album you'll get sucked in to until you've had it on repeat until sunrise. Who needs sleep when you've got an album that already sounds like a dream anyway?
Written by Tom Steffes, Radio K volunteer.