Ears still ring and teeth still click when it comes to the first new Purity Ring song in two years, but the pop hooks also boom in a way they never quite have for the Canadian electronics-and-vocals duo. When Megan James and Corin Roddick first crept into music fans’ consciousness, with a handful of 2011 tracks, what stood out was a then-singular style: Murky, trap-indebted stutter-wub and slightly fey, fairy tale-like incantations hinting at bodily decay; the vocals were often pitch-shifted. As with the early songs from fellow indie duos Sleigh Bells, Crystal Castles or High Places, it was a sound so novel and fully formed the band could explore it at length before the trick got old, and Purity Ring did just that on 2012′s 4AD debut Shrines. It didn’t hurt, either, that they had a meticulously conceived live show, bathing the stage in multi-colored lights.
Since the album, the group has flirted with a higher profile: James sings on Danny Brown‘s “25 Bucks,” from 2013′s Old, and joined him in a memorable Jimmy Kimmel Live! performance; Purity Ring remixed Lady Gaga‘s “Applause”; the pair’s members have also covered Soulja Boy and shared a track with Jamaican dancehall star Popcaan. But James worked, too, on a minimalist, piano-based recording by post-classical techno guru Jon Hopkins, and it wouldn’t have been entirely surprising to hear Purity Ring plumb deeper into the shadows and the underground.
New song “Push Pull” aims upward instead, mostly shedding the cloak-like vocal effects and creepy Brothers Grimm verbiage for a swooning, direct and airily detailed electro-pop anthem. It’s similar to the direction Zola Jesus took on this year’s Taiga, but the synth-y restraint also isn’t unlike Lorde‘s yellow flicker beats (or maybe more relevantly, as critic Renato Pagnani reminds me, Chvrches). Most importantly, it’s still purely Purity Ring: “I crept up in you and I wouldn’t let go,” James intones, an image at once sensual and sinister. Let it seep through your sockets and ear holes.