Purity Ring weave magic, wonder at Union Transfer (photos, review, setlist)

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The excitement in the air was thick Tuesday night, as the sold-out crowd waited eagerly for Purity Ring, the breakout Canadian dream-pop duo whose unique stage show landed them on many “best live bands” lists in 2012.  It’s an honor not normally bestowed upon electronic acts (it’s harder to convey passion while turning knobs or manning pedals)—but Purity Ring are not your typical anything.

The duo, comprised of friends Megan James and Corin Roddick, first burst onto the scene in early 2011 with wiggly single “Ungirthed”—then held the indie press captive as they dropped subsequent singles one by one. In summer 2012, they released their debut, Shrines, an engulfing journey through a bizarre dream world that’s as creepy and it is comforting. Live, these same visions came to life in stunning detail, as James flit around the stage like a gypsy witch doctor, and Roddick pounded out melodies on his now infamous, self-made instrument: myriads orbs lighting up as he struck them. Above them, dozens of colored cocoons dangled from poles, flashing red, green, purple, and white, and the whole experience felt vaguely like being underwater, if it weren’t for the ethereal melodies reverberating from the ceiling.

In under 45 minutes, Purity Ring played all of Shrines, plus a cover of Soulja Boy’s “Grammy”  (a surprisingly moving choice). Live, songs sounded visceral and encompassing, although it was James’ moments of vulnerability (the airy opening to “Lofticries”; the refrain of “Belispeak” where she calls for “Grandma”) that felt particularly potent. James has stated in interviews that the lyrics for songs are inspired by dreams—it makes sense then that watching her perform is like being a fly on the wall in someone else’s headspace, where the freaky and fantastic meld in unsettling, but rewarding new ways.

Setlist
Amenamy
Crawlersout
Belispeak
Saltkin
Lofticries
Cartographist
Grandloves
Obedear
Grammy (Soulja Boy cover)
Ungirthed
Shuck
Fineshrine

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