By combining and evolving the two, Grimes all but paralysed the one-dimensional, purist movements of witch house and chillwave earlier this year. Poliça – electronic music’s even more refined and inventive newcomers – dug a hole, and now Montreal duo Purity Ring are about to push in everyone else still happy to ape Salem and/or Toro Y Moi. ‘Shrines’ is the band’s debut album, and its timing is exceptional.

Not only has it arrived in a year where bedroom-produced electro is reigning supreme, it’s a record that adds something missing from the summer months – the cherub vocals of Megan James. In their own, weird ways, Claire Boucher and Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh remain sexy in their affected vocal deliveries; James is meet-the-parents cute, even (or especially) when she’s soaring above the demonically twisted, cut’n’shut vocals of producer partner Corin Roddick, best demonstrated on the opening ‘Crawlerscout’. Over screwed beats that – okay – are still inspired by the usual ’90s RnB touchstones that witch house snatched and dully corrupted, James lays girlish pop singsong over layer upon layer of synth tricks polished to within an inch of Owl City.

Where James is happily direct on tracks like ‘Ungirthed’, not singing easily recognisable vocal hooks (she frequently sounds too pixie-like for the human ear to really cotton on to what she’s chirping), but ultimately turning in a straight take, Roddick provides the complete opposite, stacking up Casio bossa nova sequences, wub-wub bass, tripping snare drums and what we must presume are his own vocals, played backwards and slowed to an indecipherable slur. This recipe of an upfront, female vocal surfing a wave of playful electronics that are nothing if not impressively dense and varied, is then repeated a further 10 times, only served at differing speeds. Perhaps it shouldn’t, but by making ‘Belispeak’ twice the tempo of super slow, post-dub-step-indebted ‘Grandloves’, ‘Shrines’ big trick never seems to get tired. James’ vocals, on the other hand, do eventually flirt with being a little too indulgent; a bit too Nigella; blood-clottingly yummy. Without a sweet tooth, you might be hankering for Roddick’s beats on their own, and they’d certainly stand up that way. But there’s no denying that James’ sunny, Saint Etienne ways give Purity Ring something that the other chopped’n’screwed RnB manipulators don’t – a unique mix of wilfully hi-fi ‘pop’ and nerdy electro oddities. ‘Shrines’ is an album to love right now.

By Stuart Stubbs

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