Review: Purity Ring – Another Eternity

Purity Ring - Another Eternity

Lullabies from a futuristic high fantasy. The childlike beauty of Megan James’ voice. The soundscaping wizardry of Corin Roddick. Canadian duo, Purity Ring, have just released their second album, Another Eternity.

As I got ready for a first listen to Another Eternity, I had to revisit Shrines, their 2012 debut, just one last time. I have been a fan of Purity Ring since this record, and I liked them for more than the music. Their creativity transcended the realms of music and into art and film. Their DIY instruments interacted like art instalments on stage. Megan James even played one of the characters in an abstract story told in their video clip ‘Lofticries’. They are self-produced and for that I held them to high esteem as both visionaries and inventors.

Shrines took me on a ride upon oscillating synthwaves that stretched out endlessly around, lulling me into a dream of blurred shapelessness.

Then I listened to the new album.
Another Eternity is clear. Crystal. Hyaline.
Whereas Shrines painted formless landscapes, Another Eternity built cities upon them.

And I found it fantastic.

But it was also polarising. Purity Ring takes the formulaic unapologetically – and disturbs it. It is both commercial and creepy.

The record opens with a cascade of arpeggios dropping like pearls. ‘Heartsigh’ and ‘Bodyache’ are the opening two songs that establish the feel for the rest of the record. They inject you with adrenaline, but they also prepare you for the trip down the uncanny valley.

Megan James’ voice, though ever so pretty, is also humanoid. Comparison of her voice to one of an android is most notable in ‘Push Pull’, the first single off the record. But ironically, I find the mechanical vocals an actual breath of fresh air. Purity Ring, in my opinion, have subverted over-production into a style, a medium, and made it their art. ‘Push Pull’ masqueraded as a safe pop song, but made my skin crawl.

The duo possess an idiosyncrasy that helped them carve a niche of their own. On the surface they are sweet and melodic but there is always something unsettling and just dark about them. ‘Stranger Than Earth’ is a more obvious example of this. The eerie hollowness created between the enveloping sub-bass beats and the mezzo-soprano of James’ voice is perfectly ethereal.

There are songs like ‘Begin Again’ that are absolutely gorgeous. It’s got the elements of a bittersweet piano ballad seeping in. Just as you begin to realise its presence, it retreats back under electronic waves. Corin truly is a great producer who can make his synthesiser weep like a violin.

‘Flood on the Floor’ and ‘Sea Castle’ are my personal favourites, because they are like dark mirror images of the first half of the album. Whereas the earlier tracks only hinted at darkness, like a child might be curious of what is beyond the forest, the later songs see the child dancing with the beast, with serrated synthesisers and stomping sub-bass.

The record finishes with ‘Stillness in Woe’. It is rather like a nostalgic deconstruction of the entire album. And with this, Purity Ring leaves us with their last words echoing:

“I built a kingdom of your throats
But it’s a little bit close
There is still a stillness in our woes
If it’s a little bit cold”

The album is unconventionally beautiful. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it needs to be listened to simply because it takes skill to portray emotion through an electronic medium.

And Purity Ring achieved that with Another Eternity.

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Words by Chloe Keung. ‘Another Eternity’ is out now via 4AD / Remote Control Records.