Purple Pilgrims is the experimental dream pop project of Clementine and Valentine Nixon, a pair of sisters who explore the concepts of synthesized nature and ancient futurism in their music. The Nixons combine their crystalline vocals -- which evoke the ethereal beauty and wisdom of legends like Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins -- with gleaming synths and hazy guitars that sound both futuristic and eternal. On their earliest releases, Purple Pilgrims cloaked their songs in layers of lo-fi distortion. Gradually, they stripped the noise away on 2017's Eternal Delight and 2019's Perfumed Earth, both of which allowed their distinctive mix of folk inspirations and synthetic sounds to become as transporting as possible. Clementine and Valentine Nixon were raised in Hong Kong and New Zealand's South Island by a family whose musical roots run deep: their great-grandfather, Davie Stewart, was recorded by Alan Lomax. In 2011, the Nixon sisters returned to China after the Christchurch earthquake and began making music. Once the duo moved back to New Zealand, they began playing shows in galleries and other Christchurch venues; their self-titled debut single of ethereal, fuzzed-out folk arrived that year on PseudoArcana. Purple Pilgrims then toured with artists including Ariel Pink and Gary War, with whom they shared a split album released by Upset the Rhythm in 2013. After signing to Not Not Fun, the sisters returned to New Zealand to make their first full-length. Recorded in a shed on the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula, 2016's Eternal Delight marked a more streamlined, cleanly recorded version of Purple Pilgrims' otherworldly sound. The following year, the duo issued the single "Drink the Juice," which featured percussion by LA Vampires and Sun Araw's Nick Malkin and mixing courtesy of Jorge Elbrecht. For their second album, Purple Pilgrims returned to the space where they recorded Eternal Delight and also collaborated with Gary War, saxophonist Jeff Henderson and guitarist Roy Montgomery. The results were the crystal-clear meditations of Perfumed Earth, which arrived on the veteran New Zealand indie label Flying Nun in August 2019. ~ Heather Phares
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 9, 2019 | Flying Nun Records
Before the release of Perfumed Earth, Valentine and Clementine Nixon described it as a rebirth for Purple Pilgrims. Listening to the album, it's not hard to understand why: Though they recorded it in the same shed on New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula where they made Eternal Delight and reunited with collaborators including Gary War, Perfumed Earth is more intentional and more ambitious -- and light years away from most artists who combine folk influences with electronic instrumentation. The Nixon sisters strip away the last traces of the hazy distortion that cloaked their earlier releases, allowing their soprano vocals to ring out with a timeless purity that evokes Judy Collins or Sandy Denny on "How Long Is Too Long?," the opening mantra that sets the intention for the rest of Perfumed Earth, and on "Sensing Me"'s love magic. The album's cleaner, fuller sound also sets Purple Pilgrims' music free. The duo astral projects through clouds of synths, guitars, and harmonies on "Tragic Gloss," basks in the radiant saxophone solo of "Delphiniums in Harmony/Two Worlds Away," and joins forces with experimental guitarist Roy Montgomery on "Ruinous Splendour"'s languid meditations. While the Nixon sisters' music reaches otherworldly heights on Perfumed Earth, their songwriting has never felt so grounded. The hints of pop songcraft that surfaced here and there on Eternal Delight blossom on "Ancestors Watching," where Purple Pilgrims give their spiritual journey an abundance of hooks and a lilting melody that they share like two sides of the same soul. Later, their luminous cover of "I'm Not Saying," a 1965 song by a pre-Velvet Underground Nico, holds onto the bittersweet mix of hope and longing of mid-'60s folk-pop and fits right in with their original material. The sisters' own thoughts on love and loss make for some of Perfumed Earth's brightest highlights. "Living's just so hard these days," they sigh on "Love in Lunacy (Saturn Return)," which balances the cosmic and everyday sides of heartache as a lover drifts out of orbit. On "Two Worlds Apart," the duo greets a relationship's end with hope and one of the album's liveliest tempos. The effortless way that Purple Pilgrims unite the mystical and down-to-earth, the spiritual and the sensual, on songs like these make Perfumed Earth both fresher, and more eternal, than anything they've done before. ~ Heather Phares
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