It's been five years since Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring released their second album Another Eternity, but little has changed in terms of their overall sound and macabre lyrical themes now that they are here with album three: Womb.
Those breathy treble vocals are still centre-stage, though they've been transformed by a heavier use of vocal effects; that coupled with the expansive, dreamy sounds and lyrical repetition throughout gives the whole thing an echo chamber vibe - Womb really was an excellent choice of title for this record.
Rubyinsides opens the album with scattered synths and vocals so echoey they're virtually incomprehensible; but when you do hear them you'll find darkly beautiful poetry like "If I could, I would let you see through me / Hold our skin over the light to hold the heat / Flood the halls with ruby insides till we spill". The song feels kaleidoscopic, unstructured and, at times, unsettlingly jarring. We see this auditory disorder again in penultimate track Almanac, which is very similar in that the vocals and creepy lyrics are drowned by the big synths.
Second track Pink Lightning - a miserable love song - reminds us of a kind of trippy, slowed-down Chvrches, while Peacefall feels monotonous and almost robotic; we start to feel a sense of repetition in the hypnotic refrain "into, into the light".
There are two stand-out tracks from the album: The first is I Like the Devil, which opens with ominous clangs and harder drums. The piano gives it a slightly more organic feel, at least compared to the rest of the album, and it's about as political as Womb gets. It's an important song about the demonisation and the struggles of womankind ("But I have felt the wind crawl where we're cursed"). The other highlight is final track and lead single Stardew, which is musically the antithesis of I Like the Devil with all its twinkly synths. Lyrically though, it's another twisted love song with lines like: "And I will fall from your sweet height, to prove / That all I am is meant to bleed and bloom".
Meanwhile, Vehemence, Sinew and Silkspun are decent dreamy pop tracks, but largely forgettable in the sea of ambient chaos, while Femia is sleepier and simpler, arriving mid-album as a break to the aforementioned chaos. There is no break in the ghoulish lyricism though, and we hear more about blood, drowning and death in general from these.
On the whole, Womb is an evocative album with perfect cohesion. There could be an argument to call it overdone in some parts, but if you're feeling overwhelmed by the layers and layers of synth effects, then Purity Ring have probably done their job right. It's suffocating, and frankly we're happy to breathe it in.