Another Conventionality

U-News Staff

I first saw Canadian pop duo Purity Ring freshman year of college. I became an instant fan – Corin Rodick ensnared the crowd with unearthly trap-claps played on a homemade electronic drum. Megan James embodied the mysterious yet spiritually-erotic persona of Bjork, and her voice was altered through Rodick’s labyrinth of knobs and buttons.

That was before they released their curiously beautiful first album “Shrines,” and they were the opening band for Com Truise and Neon Indian.

Since then, they’ve slowly climbed the stairs from obscure pop to radio phenomena. They started in the recordBar, and ended up as the lead act at the Granada.

They’re coming back to the Granada on May 20 to front their new album “Another Eternity.”

“Heartsigh”

Ominous and foggy bass droning is accentuated with a suggestion of orchestral arrangements and EDM flares. James coaxes, “Only lonely, hidden breath beneath the floor/ only, only, where your tears drip from the drawers” over an above-the-clouds ambience. There is a mix of serenity and abrasive electro-riffs. This opening track establishes the styles of old and embellishes it with the higher production techniques of more popular electronic artists.

“Push Pull”

Underneath the oscillatory synthetic-acoustic plucking and 808 snare refrains is a sound similar to a spaceship landing, or a fax machine. The signature industrial hum, a sound picked up by London grime artists like Burial, fills the chorus, but the lyrics can’t feel anything but empty. “You push and you pull and you tell yourself no/ it’s like when you lie down, the veins grow in slow/ you push and you pull/ but you’d never know.” The “You” could be anybody, and is a general and weak way to build a connection to the listener. Lyrically Purity Ring is dark and brooding, often referring to disembowelment and painting a scene of melancholy. “Push Pull” demonstrates how the band has moved away from that notion and toward something that can be easily applicable to anyone’s failed relationship.

“Stranger Than Earth”

This is the catchiest and most iconically Purity Ring song on the album. Knowing that Rodick makes his own instruments, the call and response trap bass-blare and snare skitches feel like something that is actually performed, and not just activated by a button. James asserts herself as the oddball vocalist that she is, often singing in the fashion of a twisted nursery rhyme. She repeats herself – “I wasn’t/ I wasn’t thinking about/ I wasn’t/ again, again, again.” The repetition is usually created through virtual a Capella, but it is something Megan insisted on singing herself. This song is sickly addicting and even sounds visually mesmerizing.

“Dust Hymn”

This contains the conventions of any EDM song. There are ticker-tape snares, kick-drums that speed into the chorus, auto-tuned melodies, an electronic “whoosh” sound, and a bass straight out of a trailer for a Michael Bay movie. There’s a recurring pattern of synths that feel like something from a belly-dancer bar.

Songs like “Dust Hymn” help explain the album’s dilemma — how to remain innovative and still hit the top 40. Purity Ring was a group that came from seemingly nowhere. The band had high ambitions and a limited budget with the first album, which came on as a fresh new take on electro-pop music.

“Another Eternity” is well executed, and the production is top-notch. It doesn’t, however, find a way to stand out from other artists in the genre like Ellie Goulding or Lights. Standing out was what made Purity Ring climb to stardom in the first place. They harnessed the conventions of southern rap with an estranged pop twist, something that many other artists are attempting to recreate.

In an AMA interview on Reddit, James responded to concerns about the “pop” vibe of “Another Eternity.” She stated that making pop music was the group’s intention all along. In that case they succeeded, but have lost their distinguishing touch that put them on the map.