A large part of Purity Ring’s appeal has been their ability to create an atmosphere that is, on the whole, wildly different to any other pop act on the planet. In 2011, when their tracks “Ungirthed” and “Belispeak” first made the rounds on music blogs before piquing the interest of tastemaker Pitchfork, they wisely dubbed themselves as ‘future pop’. It was mostly tongue-in-cheek, done to sidestep the annoyance of being pigeonholed into any one genre, but it inadvertently became the perfect descriptor for the band from Edmonton, Canada. Skeletal pop melodies, built on brittle and expansive electronic production – it was a sound that demanded immersion in their world, a world that pop music hadn’t quite reached yet.
This world, so well conveyed on record, is made completely physical in a live setting. In the large Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House, Purity Ring have secured a venue that might just match them in terms of atmosphere. From the delicate curtain of hanging lights that shift and change to the music, to the immense glowing orb that rises behind them, to Corin Roddick‘s MIDI controlled geometric lights that surround his beat pad – there’s an obsessive attention to detail that’s pursued with the sole purpose of transporting you.
In the vast expanse of the Opera House – it isn’t easy. The seated audience means any initial performance energy is quite literally knee capped. And for the first few songs – “Stranger Than Earth”, “Amenamy”, “Repetition” – Purity Ring struggle to fully connect. But when they do, within the cold laptop glory of ‘Obedear’, they never look back; they’ve opened the entrance to their world. “I will stop talking, because I may get emotional in here,” Megan James says, in a rare pause, “This song is for Australia, because you guys love it so much.” The song is “Push Pull”, beefed up with extended choruses and Roddick and James hammering drumsticks on the MIDI lights. James is an absorbing performer, which is lucky considering she handles the show almost completely on her own, as Roddick is mostly hidden in darkness.
It’s a performance that makes the distant, intimate. The icy house of “Flood On The Floor” collapses into the near blackness of “Stillness In Woe” – before the transcendent euphoria of “Fireshrine” and “Begin Again” close.
Photo: Prudence Upton | Sydney Opera House