Smile Politely

Resetting, not reinventing, with Purity Ring

It’s quite easy to say that a band has simply “evolved” over the course of their career. Bands change, focus shifts, insipration altered — all sorts of factors come into play, just depending on the day, really. While I can’t say definitively what it’s like to be a musician of the caliber of this particular group — Purity Ring — inspiration and influence transcends across all sorts of fields. 

There’s not a lot of use for an introduction for an outfit like Purity Ring, which as been on the up-and-up for a few years now. I can’t say that I spent any time at their last performance in Champaign, sadly — though from  from what I’ve read from our good pal Ben Valocchi — it was something else at Mike N Molly’s back in 2011.

2011, Mike N Molly’s beergarden: Think about that for a second before realizing that Purity Ring will perform in front of a few thousand people this Saturday in Downtown Champaign — right before festival headliner Run The Jewels.

Yes, all of that information is correct — and yes, Purity Ring performed just down the street from where they’re going to be performing this weekend. The beergarden at MNMs is a special place, no doubt, though so see a band make that kind of transition in just a few short years is truly remarkable. The story of my experience with Purity Ring dates back to those years, really — when the singles began to trickle out. “Belispeak” being one of the first I heard, then “Ungirthed”, though the track that really resonated, and still does to this day, is “Lofticries” — no question.

What a track:

Also, remember when the Pitchfork Forkast was a thing? Yeah, I kind of miss it, too.

I’ve seen the band a few times — once at Pitchfork Festival in 2012 on the definitive late-night party stage. Another time, I spent some money to see the band in St. Louis soon after Shrines was released, seeing the band at a club called Plush. They were accompanied by a really interesting band called Blue Hawaii — a group which is most definitely a band that fits within the hazed-out synth pop that Purity Ring belongs. Well, belonged, rather. They’ve shifted their domain a bit. I’ll get to that soon.

So, with Purity Ring back in 2011 and 2012, sure — the hype train was rolling full steam ahead. No doubt about that. Around the time that Purity Ring came about, it was really towards to tail end of the chillwave era on a major comedown after the Neon Indians and Washed Outs and Toro Y Mois of the world had done their thing, and done it in a very good way, and new releases were coming about within their own respective catalogs. Purity Ring was, and still is, much more jagged — glitches and synths that cut rather than soothe — and with the release of Shrines in 2012, it ended up being the best accumulation of those tracks that had trickled out into the blogosophere around the time.

As the band has moved forward, performed on many-a-stage throughout the past five years, their much-awaited follow up to Shrines was released earlier this year. Saying it was “much-awaited” doesn’t even really do it justice — three years was a long time to wait for a group of sugary-sweet glitch pop tracks to come out from the duo of Megan James and Corin Roddick. Of course, the reason that it took so long was because they were experiencing the biggest trip of their careers thus far.

They crushed year-end lists, and that’s it, right? Fame is here, correct? Eh, well — that doesn’t come without months and months on the road, touring nonstop, and putting in time there. And still, even then — nothing is certain. They were in front of more people than they’d ever been in front of, sold records, and then went back to the drawing board.

Purity Ring returned this year with another eternity, which is frankly a lot different than what we experienced with Shrines. If there was ever an effort to fill an arena with monstrous pop sounds, this was their shot. In a lot of ways, it turned out to be a great step forward — bigger tunes, bigger venues, bigger “stage”, if you will. It’s the projection they needed, moving from the dark, almost haunting methods behind Shrines to a much brighter record in another eternity.

Though I wouldn’t call what Purity Ring did with their sophomore record anything in the realm of EDM, without question, the booming synths that open “heartsigh” might prove different.

Ultimately, the projection of an outfit like this one is difficult to determine. That projection is upward and onward, but we’ll have to see where they land from here with a couple of records under their belt.
If I had to guess, I don’t think this flame is going to burn out anytime soon.

Purity Ring is one of the headliners at the Pygmalion Festival, and their performance with Run The Jewels this Saturday, September 26th is not one to be missed. Tickets are available here.

Full disclosure: I’m one of the promoters of the festival, and we just so happen to manage this magazine as well. It is what it is — Purity Ring is a damn good act, so yeah, I feel less guilty about writing about them.

Top photo by Ranata Raksha, middle photo from Purity Ring’s Facebook.

Executive Editor

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