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Transmission
« Review: Palma Violets & Guards @ Schubas, 5/1 Pulling Strings: For classical music in Chicago, you got a guy - May 2013 »

Concert Sun May 05 2013

Review/Photos: Purity Ring with Blue Hawaii @ Cabaret Metro 5/3/13

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There is a definite ominous yet playful sense to Megan James of the Canadian duo Purity Ring. She's clearly spent a great deal of time thinking about certain things like performing with her entire body and how to look as cinematic as possible. Just the very nature of her pounding on a drum is as cinematic as Lykke Li at times (only definitely with more smoke) and the way she can channel a wild look while she dances with a light makes one think she can make mischief if she pleases. Purity Rings, of course, are signs of chastity which also heightens the sense of Megan James coming out in an all white dress looking as if she's a bride who might at the very last moment change her mind.

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There are a few main reasons why many people go to see live shows but these of course vary depending on who you ask. Some people prefer to see how the band's songs change live. For example, if there will be more distortion or pedal effects present or if the intensity will be increased by a few notches for a writhing vocalist. In the case of Purity Ring, the crowd (mainly consisting of fans in their late teens and early to mid 20s) seemed impressed with Purity Ring because the songs sounded almost exactly as they did on the record. That is quite a skill in terms of the tightness of the songs but it does make the set feel overall less edgy and unpredictable. The compression on Megan James's vocals also was quite a bit off putting. It was difficult to hear the human moments such as heavy breathing, for instance, that tend to make a show more personal and less like a high caliber performance at an arena. Still, this didn't stop fans from rough dancing at odd points and clammering their way towards the front, mainly just to be a couple of inches closer to her.

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Megan James is definitely a performer and when the winters get rough in Edmonton, one can imagine her in front of a mirror figuring out which poses might look best to her fawning fans. So, while watching her dance around on a smoky stage with gorgeous hanging objects that look like enormous upside down buds of pussy willows is quite wondrous, one doesn't get the sense that anything will happen. It seems, in contrast, a rather controlled 45 minute set instead where everything has been meticulously rehearsed. This reviewer couldn't forget another performance witnessed on the very same stage in the fall of 2007 when a different electronic Canadian band, Crystal Castles performed opening up for Metric. Compared to Megan James, Alice Glass is completely unhinged. However, Purity Ring deliver more on their song quality overall. Time will tell if they can put out a sophomore release as good as 2012's Shrines but the beats are solid in their unusual rhythms and, though they have a solid electronic feel, there's both a whimsical femininity to Megan James's vocals and a light hearted pop sensibility that informs the songs and elevates them quite a bit.

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Here's another difference between Megan James and Alice Glass...one can tell for all her impish looks, Megan James is a sweet and caring Canadian girl at the end of the night who appreciates the love and adoration that people have for her and wants to continue on to greatness. Alice Glass, on the other hand, always seemed more like a car wreck and one could just find relief in knowing she made it through another show still breathing. There's definitely a different kind of drama going in with both and it wouldn't be too surprising if there are those out there who love both Crystal Castles and Purity Ring but at this point, Purity Ring is definitely on the rise and in the spotlight in comparison, especially after selling out two shows on the same night at The Metro.

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Montréal's two piece Blue Hawaii were also memorable openers. The duo had a layered and warm vibe most of the time with luscious femininity and an enveloping sense much like Beach House with Raphaelle Standell-Preston's sampled and layered vocals floating above our heads sometimes as if truly disembodies. Unlike Beach House, however, the band's songs have a great deal of prominent beats live and take off a bit more vs. languish in the moment. It was nice to see Standell-Preston dancing around and laughing for some of their 45 minute set as well, even if it was somewhat dark on stage for much of the set. Their album Blooming Summer is also available to listen to rather easily on Bandcamp and is recommended!

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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