When Pitchfork first gave their stamp of hip approval to Edmonton duo Purity Ring last year, band member Corin Roddick rattled off a few influences for their work: Soulja Boy, Justin Timberlake, Clams Casino, Holy Other. Listening to their debut album Shrines, you can surely hear an intersection not just of the commercial and the underground, but of tastes within the underground.
Purity Ring join jj, How to Dress Well, and a clutch of recent electronic acts that merge come-hither pop lyrics and harmonies, Southern rap’s brittle loops and chopped-and-screwed vocals, and gauzy shoegaze production. Roddick and vocalist Megan James also blur the line between chillwave and witch house, or maybe position for good the latter as a subgenre of the former—mysterious sensory pieces resting within the larger framework of laid-back, handcrafted synthetic music.
Purity Ring employ fantastical imagery, in the words of songs like “Belispeak” and “Crawlersout,” suggesting Bjork or The Knife’s dream fevers. There’s foggy electropop like “Fineshrine” and “Obedear,” and deeper within rest “Lofticries” and “Shuck” where James and Roddick, their parts spare and stretched taffy-thin, even hint at Tricky’s earliest and most sinister R&B experiments.
If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because Grimes and their Visions album occupied this space at the beginning of 2012. The big difference with Purity Ring is James’ cooing voice, which is actually up front in the mix more often than Claire Boucher’s in Grimes. That may be a comically subtle shift, but paired with Roddick’s music it helps make Shrines into a fine companion piece, not a bookend so much as the more outgoing of a set of fraternal twins.