At what point does future pop become, just, pop? When Purity Ring’s first album Shrines arrived in 2012, their self-styled description definitely fitted. This was different. This was alien. This could definitely be the sound of the future.
Skip forward almost three years and their second record is less obviously any of those things. It’s hard to tell if that is a consequence of the band deliberately repositioning themselves nearer to the pop middle, or the pop middle, spotting what looks suspiciously like a good idea, surreptitiously edging closer.
Or, in all likelihood, a little of both. It’s certainly true that whatever most people would call the mainstream certainly hasn’t been shy about mining Shrines for material. It’s also true that the mainstream has taken several of Purity Ring’s compadres to their heart – Grimes most definitely. M83, at least if you’re someone who commissions adverts for a living. But equally, a lot of the pricklier bits of Shrines have seemingly been jettisoned.
Still, the fact that the future is now apparently upon us and disappointingly there are no flying cars or hover boards, doesn’t entirely scupper Another Eternity. There’s a lot here that’s good – the repositioning of Megan James as a vocalist to hear, rather than the Cocteau Twins’ principle of using it as texture as adopted on the debut, is a good thing.
The voice, quivering on the edge of autotuned, is key to the best moments here: the off-kilter push pull is woozily brilliant, constantly morphing underneath you, with James’ voice sensual and comforting. On stranger than earth it helps evoke a feeling of detachment that is very The xx like, that sense of wandering solemnly through some vast, cold, beautifully finished structure. Although here the trek ends surprisingly, happening upon Skrillex and Diplo having a massive rave up.
Which is incongruous enough to work. But more often than not you do wish another eternity was a little less slick and had a little more of the oddness and darkness which permeated Shrines in another eternity. heartsigh could quite easily be a Taylor Swift song, and not even a particularly good Taylor Swift song at that, bodyache is worryingly close to run-of-the-mill EDM and repetition is worryingly close to run-of-the-mill R&B.
It’s not that Purity Ring have gone backwards, it’s just that in the future they predicted they look slightly less interesting and, in trying to come to terms with that, Another Eternity ends up falling between two stools. Future pop may well have eaten itself.