After a quiet few years, during which they toured in support of their acclaimed debut album Shrines, were featured on tracks by Danny Brown and Jon Hopkins, and released a handful of remixes, Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring is back with a brand new single. Their first new original song since 2012, “push pull” dropped unexpectedly on Wednesday night, the only warning being a subtle change of profile picture and cover photo on their official Facebook page a few hours prior. This unexpected release made the song all the more impactful, the lack of fanfare creating its own instant atmosphere of hype. By ignoring the traditional conventions of music promotion like countdowns and previews, Purity Ring made the drop of “push pull” into an event while still managing to maintain their indie aesthetic.
The song itself is instantly recognizable as an evolution of Purity Ring’s sound. Though it retains the basic anatomy of previously-released Purity Ring tracks, with Megan James’ vocals floating above Corin Roddick’s wavering synths and booming bass, it doesn’t sound quite like anything that appeared on 2012’s Shrines. Unashamedly catchy and leaning enthusiastically towards the “pop” in electro-pop while still displaying the band’s trademark melodic creativity, the song is practically begs to be put on repeat. In an embodiment of its title, the heartfelt chorus of “push pull” tugs against the beat, the syncopated tension between the rhythm and the melody drawing the listener in.
The mix of the track puts James far more front and center than in Purity Ring songs past. Where the eleven tracks of Shrines often masked the vocals with reverb and effects, “push pull” lifts James in the sonic landscape of the song and makes her striking lyrics much more noticeable. Lyrically, the song retains the motifs that made Shrines so fresh and intriguing, with the strange poetry of James’ verses revealing a psychology influenced by dreamlike scenes of the natural world: “I built a constellation lair / out of the moles that hovered there / make a pardon of what knows / and climb up in me.” Just as in tracks from Shrines like “Fineshrine” and “Saltkin,” “push pull” hauntingly reveals the surreal internal geometry of bodies unseen. The chorus, though, is anthemic and radio-friendly— “You push and you pull and you tell yourself no” —and a new maturity can be heard in the carefully composed interplay between the harmonies and the instrumentals.
Upon its release, there was some outcry from fans that the title of the new single was made of real words, unlike Shrines’ creative portmanteaus and neologisms, but the switch in nomenclature is an effective way to subtly denote the beginning of a new era for Purity Ring. Less cluttered and coated than some of Shrines’ weaker tracks, the bright and adventurous “push pull” exemplifies the established glittering future-pop vibe of Purity Ring while promising even better things to come.