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This Little Underground

Our live music columnist covers Hot Water Music, the Growlers and Purity Ring

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Electronic shows can blow live. But Montreal's Purity Ring (Jan. 19, the Social), one of the hottest new fire-catchers in 4AD's stable, earn maximum showmanship credit for having openly acknowledged their physical limitations as an electronic act and then thoughtfully, triumphantly compensating with one of the most dramatic, dynamic and artistically appointed stage sets around. Designed by Vancouver sensory installation makers Tangible Interaction (who also designed Arcade Fire's stunning PixMob Zygotes at their 2011 Coachella performance), the mise-en-scène was a galaxy of suspended cocoon lanterns extending partway over the audience that was the vessel for an organic and interactive light show. Set that artistic genius to Purity Ring's forward-thinking soundtrack – a sweeping electro-pop epic with futuristic R&B construction – and you've got an hourlong full-body tingle.

But wait … even without the benefit of that full visual pomp, that night's openers, Brooklyn's Young Magic, were absolutely engrossing and, in many ways, much more alive and physical than Purity Ring. Even with electronic tracks, they pounded live with the extraordinary rhythmic pulse of two powerful percussionists in the fore. Even in ethereal drift, they're punctuated and purposeful. This isn't the cute, dreamy shit that's built only for the Internet. This is beautiful and deeply musical stuff. And it's electronic music done absolutely right live. Stunning.

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