I first saw Purity Ring in 2011. Outdoors on a small stage for a 30-minute set was hardly the perfect set-up to see their particular brand of electronic pop, but woo they did it. Their music, a seductive blend of melody and backbeat, sounded new in the best way possible and drew me nearer and nearer to the stage. Later that night seeing them in the dark of the Gorilla vs. Bear party was a better fit to observe their invented light and drum instrument translating the beats and purrs crawling out of Corin Roddick's computer. I also made it a point to see them on a rainy night at Dada, where a thin crowd let me get nosier about the music they were producing and how they were producing it.
It has been a productive two years for Purity Ring, and the promise and potential shining so bright from those stages two years ago arrived at the Granada last night in full fruition. "Crawlerstout" began our journey through Purity Ring's 2012 release Shrines. In an earlier interview with Roddick, he impressed upon me how important the visual identity of their album is to Purity Ring's live performance, and from the very first note this is clear.
Each song has a color, a mood. Roddick and vocalist/lyricist Megan James alternated banging an illuminated drum for percussion or tapping orbs surrounding Roddick's control station to indicate key and intervals changes within the music. Above James hung several lit cocoons, creating the feeling of an electronic forest for her to crawl in and out of as pools of light provided her the spotlight when necessary and even more impactful moments of darkness when called for.
"Belispeak," played in greens and purples, James clear vocals jumping dynamics and tones with ease. "Obedear," glowed in royal purples and James stalked the stage with an earned confidence, banging on their drum-orb like some kind of warrior princess. Opener Young Magic joined Purity Ring for "Grandloves," a song I regard as a perfect piece of pop. Purples turn to reds, and the crowd swaying moves to something sexier, rooted in the hip.
James' vocals sound positively arresting and clear in the Granada's interior. Roddick is a clear, steady ship at the controls. The beats skitter playfully; the synths vibrate as he mixes behind his deck, more akin to a conductor than anything else. A stance other electronic musicians could take a lesson from.
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The night ended quickly, with no encore performance. A decision I appreciate more and more. "Ungirthed," concluded the evening; the stage was the brightest it has been the whole night. And something about the moment feels triumphant as we watch James take her final blows to their glowing drum.
Nothing feels accidental about Purity Ring. Their live performance is just as thoughtful as their current catalog, each blip and chorus finding an intentional home to create an entire work, every time a light, or flash to go with it.
The cocoons hanging overhead remind me that we are still in the midst of watching Purity Ring reach their full potential. In "Grandloves," James almost sighs, "Take what you want make it, make it sacramental." In Purity Ring, a prayer for pop music may have been answered. Here is hoping they go further and further into the light.