Saturday 16 March 2013

Purity Ring at St John at Hackney - 14 March 2013

Purity Ring pic Mike Frash

Approaching St John at Hackney at night I am struck with how huge it is. In my mind I had nursed the idea of a small, intimate venue along the lines of the Union Chapel or St Leonard’s Shoreditch. But this church, standing magnificently isolated amidst the streets of the newly gentrified Hackney is an imposing edifice.

The inside is startling too. This is a vast room unencumbered by anything more than a fug of dry ice. Once full (and before the evening is out, the place is extremely packed), I’d say that it is the equivalent to medium sized venues like Shepherds Bush Empire or the much missed Astoria.

The stage is prominent, sufficiently raised up so that you can see from wherever you stand. Above it are suspended a random grouping of lights that sometimes look like Chinese lanterns, but on occasion hang white and gravid like enormous insect eggs.

The first act is an electronic noodler styling himself Evian Christ (although his mum may know him as Joshua Leary). What follows is the usual selection of crunching beats, enlivened only by the fact that the bass is so loud and low that every tiny hair on my body quivers.  EC mixes in various vocal samples and truth be told, he’s moderately entertaining and goes down well with a section of the crowd.

However, he vastly outstays his welcome- what is refreshing for twenty minutes becomes numbing when extended to three quarters of an hour. By the end, you just want one of the hanging eggs to hatch and something to drop down and eat the fucker.

Purity Ring comprise Corin Roddick and Megan James. He stands behind a pile of equipment, including a succession of lantern shaped drum pads that illuminate whenever he strikes them. It’s like something out of a fairy story.

Singer Megan wears a heavy dress and wails down a hand-held microphone. At least in the early part of the set, the sound is so muddy that she is all but inaudible.

The lantern/egg light show is impressive, switching through a series of striking tableaus, changing the mood of the songs.

The set progresses. It’s all much of a muchness. Not bad at all, but equally lacking in any particular OMG or even WTF? moments.

The new Purity Ring album is called ‘Shrines’. It’s a bit of a coup to play here tonight and there is the sense that this is special, it feels like an event. But it is the church that I will remember rather than the band.

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