The best music often comes via word-of-mouth. This one was as clear as crystal when, in mid-winter, Jeremiah Nelson, one of the Midwest’s hidden music gems, stopped me by mentioning this one band. They were the first of many recommendations I would receive from him, and proved to be the one that lasted the longest. To the couple dozen in Madison’s Project Lodge sheltered from still frozen sidewalks, the few of us got a taste of what would become the greatest teasing duo of indie music of the past two years. “Ungirthed” peaked around the amplifiers to swallow people’s ears with the most gentle bursts of sonic wonder that instantly redefined what was possible in the midst of a personal lull in the ranks of dream and electro pop’s surge. For month after long month, “Lofticries” was the only other means to escape into this new minimally high contrast world narrated by Purity Ring; think a cinemascopic Wizard of Oz for the ears. Finally, after slow teases, the debut Shrines finally fulfills the long, highly-anticipated wait.
Immediately, “Shrines” is one of the top albums you’ll be able to hear in 2012. A swirling blend of synths and electro that, coupled with superb production that sneaks and tugs around your ears ever so subtly, achieves what dream pop can evolve into. Averse to dream pop? Purity Ring achieved that featherlight feeling that electro had such difficultly transcending apart from a success here and there (notably Poliça’s foray swaying towards a early 80s funk fusion, Love Inks‘ mystic summer soaked sounds among others). “Crawlersout” is similar to “Ungirthed,” but it withholds the little tweaked vocal samples for something darker in tone. Shrines has much of this, be it darkness or space, on the songs that never leaked out beforehand. “Grandloves” being the prime example, with Megan’s voice balanced far more in a song that leans towards The xx à la R&B. It’s relatively barren in that it lets notes clearly echo and saunter at will. Quite probably the most surprising track on the debut. “Cartographist,” takes people into a cavern with each pulse tugging with urgent reluctance further down into subterranean depths where each beat resounds and spreads like water rebounding infinitely.
Yet never fear as “Belispeak” and “Fineshrine” indicated, the hushed bright, minimal electro pop permeates the record, especially on “Saltkin.” It starts with key droplets that, under any other producer or group, would instantly subjugate itself to pop tendancies of 10 seconds of build and then boom-hook. Instead, they tease and build, hallowing out their sound as Purity Ring does so well with space before injecting a sound that expands and grows seamlessly. “Amenamy” is that hidden gem that people were hoping for-and I’ll leave you to explore to find out why.
Unexpectedly ending with “Shuck,” a hushed tune that is a veil of Lykke Li with the barren intro, Shrines will undoubtedly usher in copycats that will attempt and likely fail to cause the same reaction nor build-up. While Purity Ring has been around for well over a year in the blog circuit, they’re one of those rarieties that will last longer than their electropop kin Miike Snow or Passion Pit, or even peers in the broader indie pop universe. They’ve got something. You should hear it.