Purity Ring at The Forum (Melbourne)

Prior to Thursday night, I could only imagine Majical Cloudz’ combo of confrontation and comfort gelling with an intimate venue. The Forum is not intimate, with its high twinkled ceilings and cavernous interior. However, seeing the Canadian duo command the stage under a single soft spotlight immediately confirmed to me how suited the artist and venue were for each other.

Stationary, Devon Welsh gripped the microphone tightly in one hand and stand in the other . Matthew Otto stood beside him, tinkering silently yet calmly with his set up – it appeared to be an open tool box, spilling with wires. As the set drew on, Welsh became increasingly animated, swinging his arms jerkily and looping the mic cord like a skipping rope. Sharp sparks of movement dotted the set, such as his lunges forward during ‘Are You Alone’ (followed by a nervous apology) and his wolf-like howls during ‘Always Perfect’. His forlorn yet powerful voice filled the vast space, whilst the reverberations of Otto’s sounds trembled beneath. Shy but sweet, Welsh dedicated ‘I Do Sing For You’ to a fellow who knew their music (“You know our music. Thank you.”) and smiled at the kind reception from their first-time Melbourne crowd. A beautiful performance.

Much in the vein of their Canadian friends and supports, Purity Ring are an act of few words. Vocalist Megan James immediately invited us into her world with ‘Stranger Than Earth’. She was a shadowy fairy/misplaced astronaut hybrid in her white jumpsuit and gauzy cape – the perfect myth to match their dark electro pop. Corin Roddick was seated further back, diamond shaped orbs perched on posts around him. When hit, they would flash and emanate samples of sound. Strings of globes were suspended from the ceiling, forming two cubic grids of fairy lights on steroids. If this wasn’t enough to churn one’s brain into a state of childlike overdrive, spotlights threw shapes on the walls and the ceiling. It was beautiful to just absorb the display in the moment but the sheer intricacies of the lightshow provoked admiration long after the show’s end.

Their set moved quickly, shifting between a mixture of tracks from both Shrines and Another Eternity. Each song had a colour swatch, harmonised across the stages various elements. ‘Repetition’ featured warm pinks and reds. ‘Push and Pull’ was orange and purple. ‘Crawlersout’ was blue and yellow. It was several songs in before James spoke. The distance between artist and crowd wasn’t crossed with conversation but the crowd was infatuated with James. She glided across the stage front, making shapes with her hands and dancing fitfully in the dense drops. Wind tickled the tendrils of her glorified mullet – a crown of curls on top and straight down at the back.

The beautiful visuals proved to be an enthralling aspect for many, enthralling to the point where a lot of phone documentation was going on. James wasn’t naïve to this. She instructed punters to put away their phones during ‘Stillness in Woe’ because “this is really cool”. In the surrounding darkness, light beams shone from a small set up and James splintered them with her fingers.

Whilst so much of the interest in Purity Ring’s live show is generated by their exquisite aesthetic, the duo also deliver with sound. The usual culprits pulled off energetic reactions – singles ‘Bodyache’ and ‘Fineshrine’ – as well as the stomach-falling drop of album cut ‘Flood On The Floor’. The night finished without fuss – “we think [encores are] really weird” – with one last explosion in ‘Begin Again’. Never faltering and always fascinating, Purity Ring are a gem.


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