For the last few years, the spectrum of outsider pop – all things indie and/or electronic – has been dominated by a specific type of power duo, comprised of a male behind the boards and a female singer upfront. Whether it’s a bit sexist and regressive, or simply expedient, the formulation doesn’t seem to be going away. The next in the line of such duos owes much to those before them, especially the likes of The Knife, Beach House, and even Sleigh Bells.
Purity Ring is a self-described “future pop” act formed by Corin Roddick (of electro band Born Gold) and vocalist Megan James (a classically trained pianist in her own right). Roddick’s background as a drummer is evident in the percussion-lead music. Over just a few songs, Purity Ring keeps the instrumentation of synth pop and discards the 80s dance instinct. Instead, the songs are dominated by the skittering of grooves of R&B and hip hop.
The Canadian duo’s first offering was this summer’s “Ungirthed,” a swirling mix of wobbling bass, back-masked, cascading percussion, and James’ airy vocals. The B-side, “Lofticries,” is the minor key flip to the major key of “Ungirthed,” with similar ghostly effects and vocals. James’ lyrics tend towards the vague yet sinister; lines like “weepy skin with trembling thighs” are disarmed by the childlike innocence of her tone.
The duo has also remixed a couple of songs, following the same formula of their own compositions. Their take on S.C.U.M.’s “Summon the Sound” strips away the original’s feedback-heavy shoegaze, but don’t be lulled – there’s still an invigorating, rumbling movement halfway through. Similarly, Purity Ring’s remix of Disclosure’s “I Love… That You Know” is more sparse than the UK garage original.
Purity Ring’s latest song is their strongest yet. “Belispeak” has a propellant groove throughout, only hinted at on their first single. Icy arpeggios and metallic programmed beats provide the edge they’ll need to break out of the dream pop box. Purity Ring’s setup might not be novel, but their eery tones and forward-thinking beats certainly do the trick.
Purity Ring plays the Black Cat on Wednesday.