Providing something stable in an increasingly unpredictable world
Jonny Edge
14:52 31st March 2020

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It has been five years since another eternity, and honestly with WOMB, it’s like Purity Ring never left. For anyone that has ever heard a record by this band before, you know what to expect here. While there are a few signs of experimentation and getting out of their comfort zone within the album, Megan James and Corin Roddick choose to provide something stable in an increasingly unpredictable world, and it is tough to fault them for that.

‘rubyinsides’ brings the duo’s all-consuming, cavernous sound back in full force, feeling like a seamless continuation of the tone struck on their previous record. Its distorted, vulnerable sound is perfectly married with its central refrain, “If I could, I would let you see through me”. ‘pink lightning’ is crystalline, neon soaked and iridescent, shifting the vocal pitch all the way down for a foreboding introduction. In these few seconds we hear James’ voice at its most distorted, which is only notable given the complete clarity her vocal track is given elsewhere in the band’s discography.

‘peaceful’ presents a simple, clean refrain ripe for remixing. James’ voice takes a particularly soft, pure tenor here, with an affecting, soft wavering falsetto in her delivery of the word “light”. ‘i like the devil’ brings a very Nine Inch Nails-101 undercurrent of slightly sinister bass, and a note of inspiration also cribbed by current-era Grimes on Miss Anthropocene. They’re less effective in their use of it here, though – with the instrumentation layered atop sitting firmly at odds with the bass. You never quite find your footing with this number, but maybe that is the point - it’s good to see them experimenting in an otherwise safe album. 

‘femia’ is vintage Purity Ring, albeit in a more lo-fi stripped back form, still wintry its soundscape with every sung word coming across as a condensation-tinged breath. ‘sinew’ tows a very similar line, before the click of the drum machine picks up the pace on ‘vehemence’. The pace kicks up further still in ‘silkspun’, which – to use Grimes as a point of reference once again – is a wholly successful reimagining of Visions-era, right down to the undulating, thumping backdrop and the overall higher pitch of James’ vocals.

‘almanac’ is an album opener if I ever heard one, and could present a particularly powerful show opener when Purity Ring are finally able to tour WOMB. Where it does fall on the album though, feels like a stumble – which isn’t necessarily a problem, but feels like a strange choice as you flow through the album on repeated listens. Lastly we come to ‘stardew', an interesting single but potentially a misleading one. The track is notable, not in itself, but in it being chosen as the lead single for the record. It hints that the wider album will be more ambitious than it actually is – so for those of you coming to WOMB expecting experimentation, the results are mixed.

WOMB is an album that gets stronger with every successive track, but never quite reaches the heights of Purity Ring’s previous efforts. What it lacks in consistency, it makes up for with tentative experimentation giving a look at what Purity Ring’s fourth album might look like, and what exactly they have been up to in the past five years. It’s a half measure, but a satisfying one nonetheless. 

WOMB is released on 3 April 2020 via 4AD.

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