Purity Ring, 'Shrines'

Purity Ring, 'Shrines' (July 23, 2012)

**1/2 (out of four)

Purity Ring's rise to indie prominence follows what is now a familiar narrative. Distant collaborators create tracks over email. Said handful of tracks get enormously hyped by eager bloggers. Collaborators embark on tour on the strength of those tracks. Within a year, the group is headlining the Pitchfork Festival side stage – all before ever releasing an actual album. It speaks to the odd climate of the contemporary music industry that the release of the group's debut, “Shrines,” serves almost as a retrospective.

It's easy to hear why the Canadian group's music attracted immediate attention. On “Shrines,” Purity Ring songs are a perfect synthesis of current trends. They layer clipped vocal samples and washes of synthesizer effects over Southern hip-hop-referencing 808 drum patterns, while singer Megan James embellishes the whole mix with airy, macabre goth-pop vocals. It's a particularly accessible version of hazy, blog-friendly almost-genres like “chillwave” and “witch house,” and it could very conceivably be a blueprint for what pop might sound like in three or four years.

But the attention-grabbing elements that make Purity Ring's music such a draw for blog buzz ultimately work against the band: They have immediate appeal in small doses on singles but become potentially deadening over the course of an entire album. Just about anything on “Shrines” would sound great as part of a playlist – “Fineshrine” and “Ungirthed” are specific highlights – but as a whole the music is formulaic. Purity Ring have capitalized well upon one great idea, but they'll need a few more twists to turn the promise behind all those blog posts into a lasting career.

Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic