Purity Ring to Spend “Another Eternity” With Us
Purity Ring’s new album (out 3 March) is the best thing to happen to me since their 2012 album Shrines, which came out and eviscerated me. Full disclosure: I definitely cried while listening, just gently wept in my kitchen to the beautiful erratic heartbeat of each and every song.
As with Shrines, James’ lyrics explore the similar juxtaposition of delicacy and danger. She promised a more personal, present-tense perspective than her past work, and she delivered. Her macabre, childlike fascination with bodily functions and their application to more adult situations, James’ impressionism leaves an imprint on your brain. Her curious boast “Watching me is like watching the fire take your eyes from you” is delivered with enough zeal to viscerally feel it at a gut level.
If you have ever wondered to yourself, “What do angels sound like? What do they sing?”then wonder no more. Megan’s soft urgent vocals over the staccato beat thrumming with an ache that escapes in gasps and puffs of breath is the closest thing to holiness I have experienced. There is a quiet idea of jouissance throughout the flow of the album; there is the habit of pushing beyond yourself, trying to transgress, to expose yourself, split in two. There is only a certain amount of pleasure you can bear before it becomes a definite type of suffering that you can feel beating in your mouth. And all of us are holy before the fall.
Purity Ring have a lovely habit of creating this gentle but chaotic collection of pulses. The lyrics, at once both visceral and transcendent, carry an illusion of a body, and we are witness to the sloughing of the skin until it is bare. As I was gently weeping, trying to comprehend how simple humans could build this cartography of catastrophe and healing, I was struck by the imagery of (de)construction. Every song is an anatomical exploration of the splitting of a body that happens when you carve out a space in your chest for another person. It’s deconstruction of the Self, but it is construction of a new heaving creature. And it is terrifying.
The album is a messy descent into a hazy love. The first song, Heartsigh, denotes the soft need to swallow someone else’s ghosts –“I’ll whisk away your heartsigh and bury it in mine.”It’s that overwhelming ache you feel for another person, and it’s innocent and gentle and so, so quiet. This mapping of the ache flows messy and bloody through the album, and we are soon thrust into this tumultuous tear down of a skeleton, quietly violent and rough. The physicality of the lyrics pains me, like a very slow ice pick to the face, and the shaking honesty trembles like a prayer whispered into sweater sleeves instead of mouths. Flood on the Floor speaks to this idea of fluttering palms—“I’ll miss keeping you/I hope you’re sleeping too/I hope you’re home”— and A) this HURTS B) the innocence of this, despite having experienced the wars that exist in other peoples’ chests, speaks of this quiet acceptance of the shadows that breathe. It feels like an acceptance of cracked teeth and shaky palms; an acceptance of ruins.
Body slam me. This album has completely wrecked me. I lay on my cold wood floor and sobbed at midnight on a Friday, because this deconstruction, this acceptance of monsters between teeth, these bloody hands; this quiet gentle innocence, this violent physicality, this sloughing of skin and splintering spines: this is the way a heart beats. This is the way a split chest heaves, this is penance and redemption and sin and holiness within a shaking body. This is the understanding of sacred, this is making altars out of spines, this is swallowing blood. Honestly, punch me in the face.