I Crept Up In You: Purity Ring’s “push pull”/”begin again”

Purity Ring’s music is really strange and I love them. “There’s a cult / there’s a cult inside of me / form a salt / sprinkle it around me” is the first line of my favorite song from 2012 debut Shrines.  Purity Ring is an electronic music duo from Edmonton, formed in the depths of 2010; consisting of vocalist Megan James and instrumentalist Corrin Roddick. When they debuted they billed themselves as “future-pop”, which doesn’t mean anything but is kind of feckless and charming, nonetheless. They’ve recently released two songs in anticipation of their upcoming second full-length, Another Eternity (out on 3/3!) via 4AD.

Shrines was terrifying in its physicality, this strange warped electronica on top of Megan James’ sugar-coated, childlike voice. Megan writes lyrics that crawl up inside of you: “get a little closer, let fold / cut open my sternum, and pull / my little ribs around you / the lungs of me be crowns over you” (“Fineshrine”, 2012.) They wormed their way into the bones of me, reflexively. Their new music does the same thing. The press release for Another Eternity says “Purity Ring trade the gorgeously claustrophobic atmospheres of Shrines for wide-open, muscular vistas of sound and luminous, up-front vocals” and luminous is a good adjective for the first songs we’ve heard from Another Eternity.

Purity Ring are obsessed with spaces, with spaces internal and external, with rooms inside of bodies and the rooms taken up by bodies. “There’s a cult inside of me” from “Saltkin” but also “you make a fine shrine in me” from the closest thing Shrines had to a title track, “Fineshrines.” “push pull” opens “you were young and you’d stare / with a reverence unimpaired” and is, ultimately, about reverence and irreverence. Knowing a person is about taking up their space and allowing them to take up your space, both inside and outside of you. It’s a process that demands both reverence and irreverence. “push pull” is a song about occupying space inside of someone, about occupying space inside of your own self.  “You push and you pull / but you’d never know / I crept up in you / and I would never let go.” There’s barely instrumentation here, mostly glittering-bright synths. The word muscular comes to mind again, not in the sense of force but simply in the sense of tactile. Listening to Purity Ring is like feeling your muscles stretch, like chewing on bubble-gum long after it’s lost all its taste, inherently textural.  That’s why I call them “creepy” so often, a creepy I mean in a specific way: this is text-as-texture, “I crept up in you” both as lyric and as physical sensation.

“begin again” is the most recent of the two new released songs, and is a strange twinkling electro-pop confection filled with celestial metaphors and Megan James’ voice, alternately high and crystalline and low and murmuring. There is something inevitable about it. The drums beat out a military time. Endless echos of the title roll through the song, like an order. Megan James says “you’ll be the moon, I’ll be the earth / and when we burst / start over, oh darling / begin again” and then, over and over, “begin again”, “begin again”, “begin again” and you are given permission (incentive) to listen and re-listen. When I first listened to Shrines I scrawled “there’s a cult inside of me” up the inside of my leg and felt strange and holy for a good week until it washed off, there’s a cult there’s a cult inside of me.

The beauty was in the act of enfolding, enclosing. Listening to “begin again,” I feel like the opposite happens: the inside of me opens up, bare to the whole world. Celestial immensity paired with the implicit difficulty of holding your own skin together in the face of that celestial immensity: “you’ll be the moon, I’ll be the earth / and when we burst / start over.” Nothing is static, nothing remains. This is beautiful music and it makes me deeply uncomfortable. This is beautiful music and Megan James has a beautiful baby-doll voice that is merciless in the way it slips underneath your skin, luminous.

About Sophia

Sophia was raised (but not born) in small-town Missouri and now she lives in Chicago. She is interested in: lipstick, geographical narratives in Midwestern pop-punk, the close relationship between intimacy and mythical scale in contemporary pop, and cats.

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