Purity Ring’s stunningly complete sounding debut album from three years ago defied and frustrated many purely because of its multi-genre, electronic sound and the internet’s need to compulsively assign everything with a ready-made label. But its mixed, but cohesive, bag of dream and electro-pop, indie-witch house, trap (lots of trap) and hip hop eluded such easy categorisation. This is not a problem that its follow-up Another Eternity will experience.
Where Shrines was often blurry and chipped sonically and pulsating with irresistible, sticky melodies and hard to hear vocals which constantly fell in and out of view, this record does away with most of these ambiguities and what many considered to be the beautiful core of that first album. Megan James’ vocals are consistently audible and perfectly framed by Corin Roddick’s clean and well-recognised (and not from the group themselves necessarily) beats and slick synth work on ‘Another Eternity’. Where Purity Ring undoubtedly influenced mainstream pop, mainstream pop has now infiltrated their work to the point where sounds heard some years ago on ‘Bad Romance’ and Rihanna’s ‘Unapologetic’ are mirrored straight back here.
‘Heartsigh’ is immediately identifiable as Purity Ring. James’ bright and child-like vocals that reconnect lyrically with the duo’s themes of surreal body-displacement (‘And I’ll build a house around you, stir a moat until you drown down’), but there is a tight and controlled sheen applied to the beat and the structure that, at the album’s very outset, confirms a change in outlook. ‘Bodyache’ ripples and shimmers but with a hefty chorus that very nearly betrays the subtlety of the iridescent verses. Of the two singles heard ‘Push Pull’ is not only the better song, but it’s also the album’s highlight. It manages to merge the other worldly gauze and noises of ‘Shrine’ to the more overt, beaming pop sensibility that wants to dominate this record. ‘Stranger than Earth’ is another triumph with its big empty spaces, rapid gunfire beats and prominent hip-hop bass and deft wordplay (‘There was a stagger that shifted my hips, oh how swiftly it shook the dew from my lips’).
‘Repetition’ uses auto-tune in a way that is dated and unnecessary. Although it has a decent enough melody and the duo really do understand how to write a hook, it’s so uninterestingly conveyed that it’s hard to want to listen again. Into the second half of the album, Purity Ring lose the earlier focus that illuminated their skilled songwriting and their identity ultimately begins to dilute. ‘Flood on the Floor’ is peak-time EDM, no more no less. It’s not without a dumb strength but it could one of many DJ acts, and ‘Sea Castle’ would have made a great Britney comeback track as Purity Ring doesn’t have the star power to hide behind. At this point, it’s probably not a surprise that ‘Dust Hymn’ is just a variation on Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’, but somewhat ironically, lacks both the oddness and brilliant pop flair of Perry’s track – two of the main themes that James and Roddick are trying to tap into on this record.
A lot of the material on Another Eternity will almost certainly be used to soundtrack various other media, and it could very well be a commercially success album in the long run. The pair certainly have the ability to compose and perform succinct, sturdy pop of the mesmerising and introspective variety; many of the songs here could have easily appeared on many of the very big-selling, female artists current releases. What appears to be an issue though is that there aren’t enough of these good songs to fill even what is a very concise record containing only ten short songs. At the moment, Purity Ring find themselves in a kind of musical no man’s land, no longer the strange and introverted bedroom-bound freaks of their debut but not yet fully honing the bolder and more obviously attention seeking direction straining to come to fruition here.