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jon hopkins

In the midst of our recent break, London-based cross-genre pioneer Jon Hopkins caused quite a stir with his 5th studio album Immunity (out now on Domino), a brilliant mixture of slumper techno and melodic classical reference points. The album hit on a number of levels and the word on the street is that Hopkins’ live show brings the LP to another level. Hopkins is embarking on a small North American tour later this month, including several shows with Purity Ring. We’re not usually big fans of the latter’s middling work, but we can give props where they are due and the below re-imagining of Immunity standout “Breathe This Air” is pure brilliance. Hopkins’ work normally exists on a purely instrumental plane, but Megan James’ minimal crooning reinvents the song as a crossover number, constantly transitioning between shuffling techno and piano-led chorus’. The song will appear on a limited run 12″ to be given away on a first come first serve basis at the two act’s headlining show at Los Angeles’ Fonda Theatre later this month.

Son Raw summed up my opinion of Purity Ring perfectly earlier, calling them a “pair of living, breathing, American Apparel manikins”, but if anyone is going to make their watered down, monolithic take on pop and hip hop palatable, it’s Bruiser Brigade don Danny Brown. Going in over a slightly altered version of one of Purity Ring’s better tracks, Brown spits one of his longer verses and then goes into some weird autotune shit towards the end. It’s unfortunate. Actually, the whole song is pretty unfortunate. Danny’s verses aren’t bad per se, but they’re also not what we’ve come to expect. Anyways, stream below, maybe you’ll like it more than I did.

AraabMuzik is something of an enigma. He’s managed to entice worlds as disparate as New York hip hop, dance festival crowds and the Pitchforkians. He’s worked with Dipset for years, crafting some of their most grimy bangers. He’s played alongside just about every major American dance act in the past six months at festivals across the country. The trance sampling Electronic Dream, an extension of the Dipset Trance Party mixtapes, was one of the most innovative albums that’s come out in quite some time. Besides the now ubiquitous drum patterns, I doubt anyone would guess that the guy who produced “Streetz Tonight” also worked behind the boards on “Salute”. His virtually unmatched production dexterity in the pop realm is what got him on festival stages, but his work on them has catapulted him into a higher realm of popularity. Utilizing his background as a drummer, Araab attacks two MPC’s on stage with remarkable aplomb. Most have seen the videos, but it’s quite a spectacle in person. That’s the issue with it though, it’s a spectacle.

I’ve seen Araab twice now and honestly, it gets boring after 20 minutes or so. After that 20 minute point, the show settles into a malaise of snares, hi hats and mediocre dubstep. Now this isn’t a rant against the ills of “brostep” or anything of that sort. I can enjoy some Nero or Rusko just as much as the next guy if I’m in the right mind state. But by the time Araab had worked in the fourth straight Skrillex song, he looked like a caricature up there, pecking away at the MPC pads. My issue with his set is mostly due to song selection. For god sakes, how do you only play one track off of Electronic Dream? But his MPC work gets old too. He’s not so much crafting beats, new or old, on stage as he is fuxing around with percussion over them. It’s a novelty. Breathtaking for 15 minutes. Trite and monotonous by 20.

That being said, the majority of the crowd remained enthused for the 45 minute runtime despite the fairly early start (5:40). Dressed in camo head to toe, he remained intensely focused on the pads in front of him, rarely looking up to see the crowd in front. He’s not much of a performer by his looks (he might be 5′ 6″), but he makes up for it by doing far more than just about any other DJ out there. Maybe I’m just a hater and Araab’s set is the greatest thing since the introduction of the airhorn into DJ sets. With his production chops though, I have faith that he can improve his live set into something more complete. Step off the Skrillex throttle for quick sec. Take a breath and maybe I won’t look like this in minute 40.

A few weeks back, we featured the genre-bending Toronto duo Purity Ring as our Sasquatch Artist of the Week. I can’t stop listening to these guys, and up until now I’ve had to loop through a few delicious tracks over and over again. Earlier this month, however, the band announced they had signed to 4AD and Last Gang Records, which was promising news for those of us who have been holding our breath for new material. The good news continues today, with an album name, release date, and a kick-ass single off the album. According to Purity Ring’s twitter, the new release will be called Shrines, and we can expect it on July 24th; check out the album art above. Listen below to “Obedear,” the first single off Shrines. It’s a little more low-key than the tracks we’ve heard from Purity Ring thus far, but it doesn’t lack any of the precision or dreamy complexity of their previous songs. The production is spot-on, the vocals are mellow and pensive, and the lyrics are full of Purity Ring’s signature vivid, stream-of-consciousness imagery. You can download the track for free at their website.

Eight weeks ago, the Sasquatch Music Festival lineup was released to much fanfare. Like all festivals, some hated the lineup while others loved it. For the more levelheaded, it appears to be a very balanced lineup with a deep undercard. From here on out we will be underscoring the lesser-known Sasquatch artists by highlighting a different artist each week. Beyond delving into each artist’s bio, sound, etc., we will attempt to give some insight into what will make their performance at Sasquatch so amazing.

Purity Ring is Megan James and Corey Roddick, two twenty-somethings who have been dabbling in a variety of genres since their early teens. Roddick was previously a member of the experimental electro-pop group Gobble Gobble, and James has been trained as a pianist since age sixteen. Not much is known about the duo, but they make music that is unlike most of the material floating around the Internet these days. Though their repertoire is relatively slim, having only released three songs over their year-plus-long existence, their work is complex, intricate, and clearly effort-driven. In an interview with Pitchfork last summer, when asked to explain the group’s few-and-far-between track releases, Roddick explained:

“When you are releasing a constant stream of music, it can cheapen the work– we want each song to linger with people. We also spend an incredibly long time on a track. I have tons of files on my laptop that aren’t finished; sometimes I’ll start something and come back to it later.”

Their style is incredibly unique, and includes rhythmic tributes to Roddick’s love for Southern hip-hop, backed by both purely electronic instrumental elements and fantastic lyrical imagery in the muted, mixed-in female vocals. The lyrics are presented in an almost childlike vocal tone, evoking a sense of discovery and exploration within the hazy verses.

Purity Ring’s releases began with their single “Ungirthed,” back in January of 2011. The track is sticky and many-layered, doused in a brassy bassline and adorned with bits of chime-like treble, all neatly wrapped around Megan James’ sweetly electronic vocals.

Their next track, “Lofticries,” was the b-side on their Ungirthed 7″. “Lofticries” is a work of slow-paced, catchy genius, carried through by a simple drum track and heavy shades of deep, warped synth and almost-vocal melody. This one will get stuck in your head. The lyrics seem as though they describe a dream sequence:

“You must be hovering over yourself
watching us trip on each other’s sides
Dear brother, collect all the liquids off of the floor
Use your oily fingers
Make a paste, let it form

Let it seep through your sockets and earholes
into your precious, fractured skull
Let it seep, let it keep you from us
Patiently heal you, patiently unreel you.”

Purity Ring’s third release came out in August of 2011, and appears on a split 7″ with Canadian art-rock outfit Braids. Fans of AraabMusik and Clams Casino will enjoy the instrumental hip-hop feel of this one, but the chopped-up vocal track gives this a sound all its own.

Somehow both calm and insanely energetic at the same time, Purity Ring’s music is so complex it takes several listens before you feel you’ve heard all the layers in any one track. But the ear-pleasing intricacy of the group’s production style will make you want to listen over and over again. Their Sasquatch performance will take place in the Banana Shack, and will undoubtedly include lots of eardrum-pounding bass and dance-provoking synth and rhythm. Presumably, their set will include more material than the three songs we have heard from them thus far, so you won’t want to miss the chance to hear more from the talent within this group.