Five years without a new album feels like an eternity. And what’s Purity Ring been doing with that time? We know back in 2017 they wrote and produced songs for Katy Perry, which seems out of character if your mind first goes to their macabre, blood-soaked lyrics. But since their debut album, Shrines, the electronic duo has proven themselves as more than capable of writing an earworm pop hook. Like their prior two albums, Womb ties these two hallmarks of their music together again, but it’s refined and refreshing.
Womb only features 10 songs, but each one is thoughtfully and meticulously crafted; there is not an ounce of filler in this album, each track is strong and purposeful. Singer Megan James’ saccharine, childlike voice breezes through their gory lyrics (“flood the halls with ruby insides” she croons on the album’s opener), creating an intriguing juxtaposition. Paired with sparkly, experimental pop, Womb makes for an utterly spellbinding experience.
The production is the star of this album; although the songs all bleed into the next one with ease, each song adds a new flavour to the album. “peacefall” is dark but glittery, with a repetitive chorus creating an eerie and hypnotic atmosphere, whereas “femia” is moody and sedative, burying James’ vocals in its shadowy production. “femia” blossoms into the bright synths of “sinew” and James’ voice appears, more confident and striking than before. Yet, they all build off of each other, without a second out of place.
“vehemence” seems to operate as a perfect picture of the juxtapositions on this album and throughout Purity Ring’s discography. The mysterious, eerie quality weaved through all of their songs is what opens “vehemence”: it opens on the sound of heavy, restricted breathing, as though someone’s face is covered by a mask. The sound fades away into the background as the synths slowly begin to kick in, both angelic and bewitching. And finally, James’ voice strikes, assertive and strong, altered by autotune to add a mesmerizing robotic quality to her vocals. A chorus of James’ vocals layered over each other close out the song, allowing it to truly spring to life in the final minute. “vehemence” is a brilliant preview of what to expect from Purity Ring; although an experimental track from the duo, still, it does not sacrifice their characteristic eerie beauty with the hopes of creating something refreshing.
The album closes out with the bouncy “stardew”. Although this song was released as one of Womb’s promotional singles, “stardew” takes on a new meaning after a full listen of the album. “stardew” is notably more bright and bubblegum than their usual, but it has the dark edge to it they’re known for. James’ sugary sweet voice dances over twinkly keys and blurry ad-libs hidden beneath the instrumental. “I know it seems far, but just be where you are,” says the hopeful echoes of James’ voice, closing out the song before glittering synths and what sounds to be a hint of the heavy breathing on “vehemence” end it off for real. Although more brash than the rest of Womb, “stardew” commits to properly tying the album up and it’s a thing of beauty; a true masterpiece from Purity Ring.
Shrines was quite experimental and playful beneath the darkness it shrouded itself in. While their sophomore effort, Another Eternity, provided us with unforgettable hooks and cemented Purity Ring as true pop artists despite their independent, non-conforming outlook, Womb seems to be a perfect blend of the two; it is as experimental and new-sounding as Shrines but has Another Eternity’s refined quality to it. All the while, the hazy, eerie mystique that Purity Ring is known for shines through on each song, same as the five years of attention to detail and perfection that Womb took. It was well worth the wait.