Purity Ring - Shrines

One of the most hotly anticipated records of 2012.

Label: 4AD

Rating: 9

Curiosity killed the cat - so the saying goes. Today, where the business of new music is fuelled by the fast moving internet, it’s not just a case of curiosity. It’s the far meaner, less forgiving hype that often kills the poor moggy; or at least scares it off into a corner where all it can do is produce a series of ear-splitting meows rather than music. ‘Shrines’, Purity Ring’s debut, is arguably one of the most hotly anticipated records of 2012, and thus faces even more potential pitfalls than your average release. If there’s one sure-fire way to convert chatter into a one-way ticket to the stratosphere of success, though, it’s timing (plus, y’know, a shedload of talent). Purity Ring have both these things, with a rare streak of luck on their side; they seem to have released ‘Shrines’ at the perfect moment.

There’s no denying that a certain lady by the name of Grimes has inadvertently given ‘Shrines’ a bit of a hand. Claire Boucher, after all, was recently announced as the most blogged about artist of 2012 so far, making Purity Ring’s ranking of 17th look, well, rather puny. Grimes took several silly non-genres (see Chillwave and Witch house) and managed to weave them together into something palatable, enjoyable, and digestible by the masses. That’s the groundwork done, then. For a band who have only released a handful of singles, Purity Ring are generating an impressive volume of hysteria, and thankfully ‘Shrines’ does not disappoint in the slightest.

‘Crawlersout’ kicks off proceedings with eery, jolting waves of synth that morph into a down-tempo groove of glittering melodies and snappy rhythms. It’s also the first track in a succession of killer choruses – a theme that dominates an album of memorable hooks. ‘Fine Shine’ is another track that will linger with you long after the album finishes. We’re not really sure what the lyrics “Get a little closer let fold / Cut open my sternum and pull / My little ribs around you” mean exactly, but there’s something wonderfully unsettling about the sugar-sweet way in which Megan James chimes about her chest cavity becoming a sort of makeshift B&B against the countless layers of vocal echoes.

‘Shrines’ has a magical, spine-tinglingly dark undercurrent. “Grandma, I’ve been unruly… drill little holes into my eyelids,” requests James coyly, as if she was simply asking her nan to pass over the boiled sweets. Saturated with blooping and crisp drum beats, ‘Belispeak’ perfectly showcases Purity Ring’s ear for the slightly twisted. ‘Obedear’ veers from the warming backdrops peddled by Four Tet to the sinister bleepage favoured by the likes of Crystal Castles. Throughout, they continue to oscillate between the two effortlessly. Choose between chillwave and witchhouse you say? Purity Ring like both of them, and marry them expertly.

The choruses here might be modest rather than attention grabbing stadium taglines, but ‘Shrines’ is a joy from start to finish, with a sticking power that so many others seem to lack. It’s easy to forget that this is an electronic record because it feels so organic - and therein lies its greatest victory. It would be no surprise to see Purity Ring top the end of year round-ups. There hasn’t been an album this genuine, exciting and plain heartfelt since The XX’s debut – it seems inevitable that Purity Ring will go on to garner the same levels of recognition.