Fineshrine - Purity Ring - Shrines (2012, 4AD)
“Get a little closer, let it fold / cut open my sternum, and pull / my little ribs around you…”
As anyone who’s tried to make one work will tell you, most long distance relationships result in a drawn out failure. But try telling that to Canadian duo Purity Ring.
The pair are separated by more than 1,000km, so instead of a typical “get together in a room and jam it out” album construction, they had to take a slightly different route with their debut LP Shrines. First, Corrin Roddick would craft the dark, synth laden, bass-infused beats over in Montreal. Then he’d send these instrumentals over to Megan James in Halifax, who added her vocals: a sweet soprano, balanced out by dark, emotive lyrics. Finally, the track would get bounced back to Montreal, where Roddick would give things a final touch up. Indeed, the two only worked on the album in the same room just before finishing it, merely adding a couple of final touches.
This way of working isn’t exactly new. Indeed, in the hip hop world, it’s the way many producers make tracks for rappers. But it’s not so common with a band like Purity Ring. And what’s most remarkable here is how well it works. There’s no way you could tell Shrines was composed across half a country simply by listening to it— Roddick’s beats and James’s poetic soprano blend seamlessly and cohesively. As James told Rolling Stone, “I think it works really well for us. We have very different goals in writing a song and it allows us to be isolated in those goals.”
It’s hard to pick a standout track from Shrines, as it’s all very consistent. But if forced, one would have to be Fineshrine. Roddick’s shuffling, UK bass style beats, and staccato, syncopated synth harmonies support and intertwine perfectly with James’s pure voice and darkly emotive lyrics, which manage to be poetic without descending into obscurity. Shrines is one of the most individual, compelling and charismatic albums to come out this year, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to not check it out.