After a five-year hiatus, Purity Ring are back with their latest studio album, ‘Womb’. In some respects, ‘Womb’ runs over tried and tested ground. But in others, Purity Ring have pushed their self-styled ‘future-pop’ into new areas.
‘Womb’ is a sophisticated third album – and evidence of a band playing to its strengths. Womb is peppered with bodily references throughout, in keeping with the corporeal imagery that has come to define Purity Ring’s opus. On opening track, ‘rubyinsides’, Megan James sings of ‘skin’, ‘heat’, ‘moisture’, ‘breath’ and ‘death’, but also of, ‘halls with rubies’ and ‘arrows of emeralds’. The juxtaposition of the visceral with the celestial on ‘Womb’ paints a vivid picture for the listener – Purity Ring become artists as well as musicians.
As always, Megan James’ vocal is a highlight, portraying emotion and restraint in good measure. On ‘femia’, James describes a relative passing away. She sings, “Run until the tears run dry / 'Til you cannot breathe” before Corin Roddick’s synths and percussion phase out for, “O'er the hills where I / Too someday will leave”. The interplay between the duo is powerful in its ebb and flow, and is symptomatic of musicians completely at ease with each other.
The melding of James’ vocal with Roddick’s production on ‘Womb’ is perhaps what marks the album as exceptional from ‘another eternity’ and ‘shrines’. On ‘peacefall’ James repeats, ‘into, into the light’, while Corin Roddick’s soundscapes morph and swell around her. The boundary between what has been digitally created by Roddick and what is sung by James is blurred. The tracks are as natural as the elements of the body they describe.
Credit must also go to Corin Roddick, whose production on ‘Womb’ cements the band as genre-defying. ‘vehemence’ opens with atmospheric swells and surges, before dropping into a beat that could be used for a Drake or Bieber track. For a band who’re credited with writing three songs on Katy Perry’s ‘Witness’ release, it is encouraging to see them embrace Pop formulas on their own work. Roddick underpins ‘silkspun’ with another Pop beat, which could move the track from the intensity of bedroom listening to the release of a crowded dancefloor.
While we see glimmers of sparkle on tracks like ‘silkspun’ and ‘vehemence’, Purity Ring are dipping a toe into shimmering Pop when perhaps a swan dive would be more appropriate. ‘Womb’ deals with heavy themes throughout: the US healthcare system, the role of women in today’s society and the loss of family to name a few. It could be levelled that Purity Ring make these social issues seem inescapable, instead of inspiring the listener with hopes for better days.
Still, there is no doubting the power Roddick and James are wielding on ‘Womb’. The talent of Purity Ring as songwriters, instrumentalists and visionaries is clear to see – it will be interesting to see where the band can take their sound in years to come.
Words: Sophie Church
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