Purity Ring are troublesome. The defy convention where the can; seemingly, just for fun. They’re an electronic duo who rely very little on filthy bass to arouse an audience, and they look like they should be aping Alison and Jamie; Matt & Kim or Jack and Meg, when really they take their inspiration from Clams Casino and, ahem, Soulja Boi. Don’t think such gleeful irreverence escapes their live show, either. Giant reptile eggs – actually decorative lights, disappointingly – hover over vocalist Megan James and instrumentalist Corin Reddick’s heads, while Reddick’s set-up looks and works like Fisher-Price decided to stop fucking around and make some real toys. The Canadian upstarts set tonight is also assuredly off-kilter, but a brisk run through debut album Shrines is taken with verve and crowd-pleasing confidence.
‘Belispeak’ rumbles and glitters, sounding much bigger than it does on record. James’ voice feels less isolated from her musical backing as Reddick does his best to interrupt her with occasional glitches, and the song has greater weight and presence than expected. The crowd is still coming in and rushing to find a good place to stand as the gig commences, but they are not passive once settled. It’s a sympathetic audience; one that is not compelled to stand on their heels, arms-crossed but wants get involved and celebrate one of the year’s best acts.
The pained echoes that mark the beginning of ‘Amenamy’ are greeted fervently. Snares filter in beneath before Reddick beats out the song’s chiming riff; small lantern-like spheres surround him and light up as he hits them in order and with precision. It’s kind of hypnotic to watch and brings a novel visual hook to the show. The light display steadily expands and gives the sense that the show is building to something in its early stages; a suspicion that is only confirmed when casually ‘Lofticries is dispensed with as the evening’s fourth song. Friends excitedly stare at one another in mutual recognition of Purity Ring’s biggest song to date, and both the band and their audience seem to be feeding off one another and the surprising pace at which this gig is playing out.
It all culminates in ‘Cartographist’, the slow-burning, epic apex of both Shrines and tonight’s gig. It is a song that displays much more patience than the rest of the Purity Ring canon, taking ample to reach its stunning climax of cascading synths and powerful vocals, which are only enhanced by the eminent glowing of the bass drum, reptile eggs and Reddick’s toy box. From there on in, they rattle off the rest of the set with matter-of-fact efficiency, stopping only once to thank the crowd before the closing trio of ‘Crawlersout’, ‘Ungirthed and the stripped-back ‘Shuck’. It’s a short gig, clocking in at 45 minutes with no encore; cries for “one more tune” quickly die out upon realising that the young Edmonton duo have no more songs to play.
So, yeah, Purity Ring try to defy convention where they can, which makes for a strangely structured show, but they display an easy ability at getting the people going. If nothing else, the Button Factory witnessed the ample promise that belies Purity Ring as a live act; the crowd leaves wanting more, even if they recognise that James and Rennick literally have nothing else to give.