Eleven years in the past, when Purity Ring launched their breakout single, “Ungirthed,” the pairing of soiled South-style rap beats and twee synth pop was remarkably novel. Even throughout the heyday of witch-house artists like SALEM and oOoOO, nothing fairly in comparison with the distinction between producer Corin Roddick’s whimsical grit and Megan James’ macabre but sweetly sung lyrics. The Edmonton, Alberta, duo had captured lightning in a bottle, and so they continued to harness its spark throughout three albums.
That’s to not say Purity Ring have by no means tried new issues. In 2015, their sophomore album, one other eternity, appeared meant to counter any accusation that the 11 songs on 2012’s Shrines have been all variations on one nice concept. Roddick added fluorescent EDM synths and stately piano to his 808-driven rhythms; James started experimenting with a extra explicitly pop-oriented cadence and elocution. WOMB, their moodier third album, was in some ways a beefed-up return to kind—girded with wealthy atmospherics, heavier synths, and processed vocal hooks on par with modern chart-toppers.
Two years after WOMB, the graves EP is firmly rooted in the identical delicate reconfiguration that comes with every new Purity Ring launch. Some songs even sound outright regressive, which isn’t at all times unhealthy. James has stated that the title monitor “has been haunting us for eight straight years,” and its bouncy trance chords and glowing piano clearly recall the euphoric rushes on one other eternity. The touches of 2010s nostalgia are charming, however much less so when “nthngsfine” and “unfortunate” evoke an overproduced and undercooked Shrines. When James breathily sings, “How fortunate you might be to be so unfortunate, breaking onto the rooftops over Waikiki,” amid clouds of results and reversed synths, it sounds each convoluted and ill-fitting. Easy compositions and evocative lyrics have been integral elements of Purity Ring, and with out them, the music feels extra like a glittery spectacle than an immersive pop world.
With each layer of polish shellacked onto their core sound, the individuals behind Purity Ring’s style tropes and darkish poetics develop more and more obscured. James has at all times favored evocative abstractions in her lyrics, however there’s much less to understand right here than earlier than. Small illustrative moments seem (“You sailed away on a sunken boat,” goes a memorable line in “neverend”), however they’re usually undercut by non-sequiturs (“This metropolis’s fucked however how’d you understand in regards to the facet highway”) or throwaway refrains (“Spinning such as you by no means finish, simply do it once more let’s do it once more”). “watersong” is a wonderful little ditty with an apparently uneven synth line and sticky melody, but it surely’s riddled with vocal quirks and half-baked lyrics that interrupt the tune’s easygoing move. At finest, James’ angelic lilt can elevate her phrases past that means. At worst, her over-pronunciation, heavy vocal processing, and awkward phrase decisions can kill a monitor’s momentum and depart it thematically barren.