Sometime in the beginning of 2011, Purity Ring’s “Ungirthed” started circulating through blogs and mix CDs and podcasts, firmly entrenching its sputtering saccharine sound in the minds of those who like to keep abreast of the outer edges of pop music. There was a vinyl single released, along with a couple of additional songs to keep the masses sated while the mysterious band – who actually turned out to be a twosome from Edmonton, Alberta – prepared their debut album, Shrines, which was released last week through indie stalwart 4AD.
All previous singles – the aforementioned “Ungirthed, along with “Belispeak” and “Lofticries” – are all accounted for on Shrines. Taken together with the two songs released as singles from the album earlier in 2012 – “Obedear” and “Fineshrine” – about half of the material on the album is previously unheard.
And yet, while listening, none of Shrines sounds like it’s previously unheard. If you have heard any one of the five singles that have been disseminated through the indiesphere over the past twelve months, then you’ve heard all of Shrines. There isn’t much variance on the pair’s previously established dark electro theme. And if you hadn’t come across Purity Ring until Shrines, the choices for singles are obvious once you’ve been made aware of their existence. Meet the new songs, same as the old songs.
My distaste for the relative homogeneity of Shrines aside, the album isn’t unlistenable. In fact, it’s wholly repeatable. But somewhere during the time in between “Ungirthed” and “Belispeak,” one realizes that there were actually three songs played, all of which mesh together as a sort of gothic filler between the high points of the singles.
There is enough good in Shrines to keep it repeating, and to warrant curiosity over an eventual follow up, whether it’s to see if the pair can outdo the warped pop of “Ungirthed” or to see if they take things in an entirely different direction. Whichever path the duo chooses to embark upon, an expanded sonic palate from which to draw inspiration will be essential.