Live Review: Purity Ring At Music Hall Of Williamsburg, September 22
Futuristic pop duo Purity Ring showcased their debut album, Shrines, at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night. Corin Roddick and Megan James' arrival was met with a torrential downpour, blustering winds, and booming thunder, foreshadowing the band's ground-rumbling music.
The force of the tempestuous weather could be seen by the dripping wet heads of attendees as they filtered into the venue. The ear-splitting opening acts, Headaches and Evian Christ, featured bass so loud that the floor quaked; standing in the crowd, bones nearly reverberated to the resounding beat.
By the time it reached 11:15 p.m., Purity Ring had yet to go on stage. The crowd, now large, was starting to get restless. There wasn't much to do but admire the intriguing stage design. Twenty ellipsoid-shaped cocoons dangled from long, slanted poles, like baited hooks suspended from fishing rods. To the left, a dark sheet covered a peculiar structure with multiple, projecting arms. When Purity Ring's Roddick finally walked on stage, he made his way to the concealed object, ripped off the sheet, and revealed the branched apparatus — the band's homemade visual and musical"Instrument" — from which he started playing “Belispeak.”
The cocoons hovering around the stage were illuminated in many colors, rhythmically pulsating with the beat. It was then that singer James emerged. She picked up an industrial light bulb from the ground and waved it overhead, singing, “Grandma, my sleep is narrow. Did you bring me some strong drink?” Roddick, thrashing his head to the beat, used mallets to hit orbs that were fixed on the ends of the contraption, which responded by lighting up and playing samples in tandem.
While Roddick swung wildly at the illuminated, percussive instrument, James paced the stage, twirling her hair around her finger and tugging on her skirt. Occasionally, she'd hit a massive drum that emitted a soft yellow glow.
The duo transitioned seamlessly through songs from their debut album via interludes. As “Lofticries” segued to “Cartographist,” James vocalized into a heavily distorted microphone, whipping the audience up into a frenzy. Unfortunately, “Cartographist” was, by far, the weakest song of the evening; James strained to reach the higher notes, but fell flat. Not even the electronic echoing effect applied to her vocals could disguise the issue. These problems continued in “Obedear,” as James sang almost a full octave lower than the studio track.
The pair did recover as they moved to the last three songs, the most dynamic of the entire show. During “Crawlersout,” James picked up her own mallets and joined Roddick at the percussive station where she took part in a call-and-response duet. This was immediately followed by “Ungirthed,” which featured a driving beat so infectious that it persuaded a great majority of the audience to dance.
James' surprisingly haunting solo introduced “Shuck.” A hush fell over the audience as she sang, beautifully, “I’ll shuck all the light from my skin and hide it in you.” She drifted through the song, exited and Roddick, now alone, moved to center of the stage and controlled the final 30 seconds of the song from an app on his iPhone. The crowd cheered, but there was no encore; the set was only 40 minutes.
Despite its brevity, and various other shortcomings expected when translating electronic music to the concert setting, Purity Ring’s strengths shined through. It was an engaging, visually stunning show with an enthusiastic crowd; these merits, among others, made it a worthwhile experience.— Fenizia Maffucci