Megan James and Corin Roddick are twenty-somethings, hip dressers and one of those boy-girl duos that are such a fashionable format right now. Musical tastes? Basically also what is really “in” right now: dark synth-pop, dubstep for all ages, drowsy chill-wave and an absolute admiration for luminaries of Southern hip hop and producers like Clams Casino (who, of course, has had a big influence on them). For their songs, they’ve drawn a little on all of this (they even remember witch house) and mixed it with their memory of Soft Cell’s albums. They compose at a distance, exchanging galactic beats and robotic-ghostly voices by e-mail, illustrating the results with lyrics that Megan reclaims from the diaries that she has kept since she was a teenager. Pitchfork praised their first two singles when they were starting to stand out, 4AD is now releasing this much-trumpeted debut and the dream is to produce R&B artists before too long. Yes, it’s all so ragingly modern it’s scary.
With so much suspicion of hype, the songs must be subjected to an incisive analysis. The label define them fairly tritely as “lullabies for clubs” and the truth is that they are right, because some of the songs that we hadn’t heard until now do help you get to sleep. Particularly the lazy triad in the middle of the album - “Amenamy”, “Grandloves” and “Cartographist” - leading us to suspect that they still don’t handle the concept of restless dreaminess defended by chillwave entirely well. They are songs in which they try to expand their sonic palette to show that they have aptitudes for atmospheric music as well as for making shiny singles. Nevertheless, excited by the advance singles and after having worked on the album for a year and a half, one still can’t help but feel that they have jumped the gun with it a bit. The rest of the songs, always in the shadow of that crystalline urban hit that is “Fineshrine”, play to their strengths: we hadn’t heard “Saltkin” and “Obedear”, but we had heard the sensual “Ungirthed”, “Lofticries” and “Belispeak”. “Shuck”, a song composed differently than the rest (starting from Megan’s voice and not Corin’s synths), closes the album, diluting it in gloomy mists and vocal effects.
Perhaps because they come from the same country (Canada), they released with the same hunk of a label and they put their two best songs right after a shining intro (“Crawlersout”) - or simply because of the future-pop juncture where they situate themselves - “Shrines” inevitably reminds one of Grimes’ “Visions”. What differentiates it from that elevated album is that it manages to keep the listener attentive throughout, among other things because its crazy originality and contagious eclecticism never wear out. Unlike Claire Boucher, Purity Ring end up lining up in my mind with Active Child, jj, XXYYXX or the featured guest on “Grandloves”, Young Magic - projects where it is very easy to understand what they are passionate about and why, but not so easy to swear that their crossovers will solidify over time. This might occur, in one theory, because they feed from raw materials and genres that are still so recent that it doesn’t seem easy to regurgitate them with any perspective. Another thing is that, however they are dressed up, there are songs and they are modern songs. So, we agree that the great victory of “Shrines” lies in skilfully and cheerfully crossing, for example, Washed Out with The Knife, alongside the crackling mists of Clams Casino. Whether this is a definitive or valuable achievement per se will depend on how you look at it.