Canadian duo Megan James and Corin Roddick released their debut album ‘Shrines’ eight years ago, and their cohesive vision was striking from the start. Melding uneasy, fidgety beats with creepy imagery, it was an eerie, skittering creation composed back-and-forth over email. Lyrically, it depicted dissected bodies (‘Fineshrine’) and fairytale-ish evil grandmothers drilling little holes into eyelids. Purity Ring in six words: macabre imagery enveloped in hypnotic electronica.
It’s a formula that their 2015 follow-up ‘Another Eternity’ largely stuck with, too – though that second record felt more optimistic. Five years later, ‘WOMB’ inhabits this same world again – but intensified. Though Purity Ring lure you in with soft-edged washes of melody, James’ images are often highly specific and usually unsettling.
A series of twisted love songs – declaring infatuation through fragmented collarbones, pouring blood – and translucent skin held tight over a torch, it’s physical and masochistic. “If I could I would let you see through me,” she sings sweetly on opener ‘rubyinsides’, ‘Hold our skin over the light to hold the heat/Flood the halls with ruby insides til we spill.”
James recently told The Skinny that many of her lyrics explore “my take on how women and non-binary people struggle for power within the patriarchy in an intimate way.” “If I could I would let you see through me,” she sings sweetly on opener ‘Rubyinsides’, ‘Hold our skin over the light to hold the heat/Flood the halls with ruby insides til we spill.”
‘Femia’, which nods back to the minimalism of the duos’ debut, flows like a kind of devotional hymn. Written after the death of James’ aunt, it’s a gentler rumination on life tumbling through the generations. “Until the tears run dry, until you cannot breathe,” she sings, “Over the hills where I too someday will leave.” ‘Sinew’ also taps into a softer hue of darkness. all hefty, synthetic strings, damp hair and strangely-cleansing sweat, it’s both strange and oddly uplifting.
‘Almanac’, which deals with fate, feels a little overwrought and wordy, but other than that the missteps are few. Instead of taking a battle-axe to what came before, ‘WOMB’ refines Purity Ring even further. The subtle experiments pay off – even if you may sometimes wish they’d surprise you more.
Release date: April 3
Record label: 4AD