Purity Ring: Shrines (4AD)

This full-length debut showcases Corin Roddick's engaging electronic sound paintings and the chirping, little-girl vocals of Megan James, which seem to alternate between naive and sensuous. With lyrical themes that range from playful to obsessive, the Canadian duo are the 21st-century offspring of '80s and '90s bands—such as This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins and the brilliant but little-known Insides—that found a home on the same label that released this album.

On the opening track, "Crawlersout," James' lyrics are obtuse enough to invite multiple interpretations, but it's hard to deny the strange attraction of lines such as, "They'll weave their long souls / into the frame / to grow their foliage in / sew their long hairs / into their beds / to keep them crawlers out." In the next tune, "Fineshrine," she invites deep intimacy, singing, "Cut open my sternum and poke."

Roddick's synthesizer constructions, on such numbers as "Lofticries" and "Ungirthed," flirt with grandiosity and are almost prettily ornate. But there always seems to be something a little earthy and unsettling in the mix, whether it's a skittering bit of hip hop, or the dark, doom-laden rhythm bed in the haunting "Cartographist."

The song to which I return most often is "Grandloves," which features guest vocals by Young Magic's frontman, Isaac Emmanuel. It's eerily beautiful, thanks in no small part to Roddick's phased synths, which sound like shifting curtains of sound, billowing to fullness and then hanging empty.

Neither chilly nor dispassionate, Purity Ring makes dream pop that defies the expectations associated with the form.

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