Monday, March 2, 2015

Purity Ring - Another Eternity Review

The recent influx of SynthPop to grace Indie stations across the country all rely on a similar foundation, one that's concrete and unwavering, with jutting synth waves clashing against fluctuating drum and bass movements and a female vocalist adoring the edifice. While the basic structure of SynthPop hasn't changed one bit, with obvious cons abundant in its lack of innovation, certain albums and artists are able to evade the pitfalls of the genre with nothing more than their charm. In these cases we're given Chvrches' debut The Bones Of What You Believe and Purity Ring's Shrines. In others we're given regurgitated collages haphazardly assembled to simply profit off the sub genre's explosion in appeal. The latter typically features artists already well-respected because, more than any other genre, the carefree adolescence and distinctive sound that comes from the freshness of a debut that many flock to is lost upon repeated releases. Enter Another Eternity, Purity Ring's follow-up to their debut, situated in a shaky place where novelty no longer exists, leaving strictly the merits of ones musical talents. And, acting as another cog in the wheel, the subtle transition into lackadaisical Pop went off without a hitch, resulting in yet another one-trick pony that echoes redundancy with dud after dud. 

For Purity Ring, and many related acts, much of what makes or breaks the group is the lead singer, in this case Megan James. All acts typically feature a light, informal voice to represent the sound, more as a way to lead listeners on, making it of the upmost importance that they can blithely sing along. The lyrics themselves never divulge any secrets or contain any deep strain of thought, rather they center around over-used cliches and your prototypical female-to-male relationship banter, the trials and tribulations using bare metaphors to get across a series of feelings. For most SynthPop albums this is fine cause it merely acts as the cherry on top the dense, delectable beats forming and morphing throughout, but here it seems, James' singing acts as the pivotal go-getter, with the music residing to a secondary status, merely filling the space behind her. On Shrines her voice was used more as an instrument, corrupted by the beat, becoming one in the same. With her leading this time around things take a distinctly Pop-flavored turn, causing Another Eternity to suffer immensely from banality. It's a fragile work that relies heavily on something so incredibly dull, everything from her voice to her lyrics reek of normality, with the emblematic production suffering from her forceful lead.

The production has, and always will be, the strong point of Purity Ring's music. Their recent work with artists like Danny Brown had many to believe they'd lead into a more Trap/EDM type direction, and while that didn't come to fruition, there are glimpses of its effects throughout Another Eternity, most notably on 'Dust Hymn' and 'Stranger Than Earth.' These songs offer the most variety of any track here, moving quite fluidly behind loud hi-hats and hand claps, and deep, rumbling bass with chimes that mimic Drake's staunchest bangers. The direction Purity Ring's production has taken in large parts though is primed for festival work, seeing seas of youths at Coachella nodding along to these beats is a given. Many songs pit subtle synth build-ups with explosive declarations of the culminating beat, yet another facet proving that the background is being lead by James' voice as each part coordinates to her position in the song, either verse, chorus, or segue. What can't be critiqued however is the mastering in effect here, with each song vying for a pristine touch that leaves no inch of Another Eternity bare or dry. The songs here don't stray too much from their SynthPop origins, but with a polished sound that seeps into the brain there's no reason to expand. 

Unfortunately for Purity Ring no amount of articulate mastering could mask the lack of originality pouring out of Another Eternity, which reduces itself to a long line of overtly simple metaphors used to convey feelings of attachment for a lover, ex-lover, wanna-be-lover, the point really isn't clear. By the album's opener, 'Heartsigh,' the intent of the album is clear and it's one you'll soon learn to filter out while scouring gratification from the beats. Where Shrines was doused in a sense of mystery, Another Eternity basks in obliviousness. Each chorus presents a pitiful attempt at emotional discourse, 'Repetition's' "watching me is like watching the fire take your eyes from you" is just one example. Nothing here is worth exploring, each song feels forced into place by reaching its 3-minute Pop-centric mark and then moving on to the next, with little depth to their names. Making the distinction more apparent is the failure to evade typical verse-chorus-verse structure, with every single song following the same format. It makes distinguishing between songs difficult, where, if it weren't for the sung song titles in the choruses, you'd be baffled in naming them individually. 

At the end of the day, while Purity Ring's latest adds nothing to the scope of SynthPop, gathering enjoyment out of it all comes in context. This album works much better as a loud, brooding light show in front of a sea of on-lookers rather than condensed to a pair of headphones. Still, comprising an entire album with the clear purpose of pleasing the touring crowds is a little discourteous to those listening in any other setting. The repetitious nature of Another Eternity positions itself directly in the middle of all SynthPop records, complete and utter mediocrity. Not good enough to be remembered, or even enjoyed past a certain date, but passable due to a clear talent and knowhow to compose ear-worms with mass appeal. Purity Ring's follow-up to Shrines fails to launch itself in a direction that doesn't entirely reek of complacency, a clear attempt to profit off the genre's ease of appeal by creating an album entirely devoid of creativity and original thought. 

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