Just five months ago, Purity Ring played to less than three hundred people in the depths of Soho’s Madame JoJo’s. Even then expectation was high, despite the band only having released a handful of songs which had been painstakingly drip-fed to the internet over the best part of a year. But now playing to a sold-out venue almost three times as large, the Canadian duo seem to have made the transition with ease. Nothing with Purity Ring feels rushed or smacks of accelerated hype even though the band are technically less than two years old. Everything is measured… purposeful.
Last night Rihanna might have dropped in on the capital as part of her round-the-world-in-seven-days jaunt, but those hanging off the balconies and crammed into the main room at London’s Scala know the future sound of pop is right here. It’s a bold hope for anyone to carry on their shoulders, never mind two people barely in their twenties, yet Megan James and Corin Roddick seem unfazed by the glimmering career path lying at their feet.
Of course, it helps when you have a debut album like ‘Shrines’, or a tune like ‘Belispeak’ to open your shows with. And the crowd go bonkers as soon as its shuddering bass, strobe-lit synth and skittering, chopped up beats kick in. Megan’s ghostly vocals as heavily distorted live as they are on record - childlike and girly one moment, reduced to a grotesque, deep groan the next - but always ethereal and breathy, bold and striking.
And it’s not just their sound that impresses, it’s also the creativity of their live performance. Wrinkled alien-esque orbs are suspended over the stage, lighting up at different intervals, while Roddick’s drum machine flares brightly with each chime, bleep and handclap-beat. Similarly James, every bit a witchy Stevie Nicks in a satin jumpsuit and wild curls, spotlights herself with a handheld lamp and bangs an illuminating bass drum to cut through the darkness. But rather than diminishing the shadows of their doomed electropop, light only seems to accentuate the black satin upon black velvet layers and crevices of Purity Ring’s music, the effect suitably macabre.
After all their self-professed “lullabies for the dance floor” are as much nightmare as they are dreamscapes. Sure ‘Lofticries’ is shrouded in swirls of shimmer and crystal, but at its heart is an intestine-shaking, brooding drone. And as innocent and breathy as James’ voice can be, just listen with your eyes closed as she pleads “I’ll take up your guts to the little shed outside. I’ll shuck all the light from my skin then I’ll hide it in you.” Then “They'll sew their own hands into their beds to keep them crawlers out,” and you can’t help but be mesmerised but the beauty and terror of such vivid, voodoo imagery, nuance and depth.
Claustrophic and euphoric. Sexual and desecrated. Twisted and luscious. And all this on only their third visit to the UK. When they return again, one can only imagine on what level they’ll be batting at.
Words by Dannii Leivers