Somewhere, not long ago, a deft geneticist-by-day, musicologist-by-night got into his or her mind an unscratchable itch. Inspired by the nature-defying experiments in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, the good doctor combined the DNA of The Weeknd, early Tricky and witch house group Salem and created a hybrid beast as dark and sparse and sexy as is achievable in a world with sentient beings.
Purple, an enigmatic member of the Los Angeles-based Wedidit Collective, in late 2013 offered the world Salvation, a seven-song set perfect for Saturday nights in dark alleys or a quickie in some busted up, black-lit underground bordello. Since then, the steely cold detachment and hard-to-get overtures have kept people trying to find salvation repeatedly through one darkly gorgeous EP. The need for a connection is strong, as is the need for the chase.
And, oh, has Purple kept up the chase. It’s been more than a year since he released Salvation, and is anyone the wiser about who he is? Has anyone connected with him? He constantly posts on his verified Facebook page, and certainly his Wedidit brethren are busy in the world, but are we any closer to knowing who Purple is?
We’re virtually left in the so-called “fade,” where bad dates go to die, but not quite. There is the occasional remix and a Dec. 31, 2014, Facebook post about a “blessed” 2014. “Thank you all for being there,” he says. We’re here, man, but where are you? There was Vice interview in 2013 that cleared up a few things: He’s from Porto, Portugal. He lives in London. He’s a whole lot cooler than me.
Back to Salvation, Purple crafted a spectacular, almost sacred, study of lust, detachment, murk-drenched souls, and a contingent of characters with overly exaggerated voices who make overly attenuated gestures. It’s like David Lynch, if he focused his attention away from Roy Orbison and onto a severely drugged lovechild of Prince, Martin Gore and Robert Del Naja.
“Look Innocent” is a standout track. Sparse synth pads float around the mix and sing-songy, pitch-shifted vocals are snarled over a throbbing, syncopated beat. The lyrics repeat the song title, imploring someone or everyone to at least look the part of the sinner, because what they are doing certainly is not innocent. The bass end drones in the background, stuck on the same note until it’s removed from the mix entirely, leaving an even sparser moment for a few seconds. It all comes together to personify the seedy rawness of the collection. Listeners receive their salvation in a masquerade sex party at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning in the catacombs beneath a cathedral’s basement, not upstairs in the sanctuary eight hours later.
“Funny Games” is the first part of the two-part masterpiece sequence that concludes with “Look Innocent.” The analog synth-bass and an R&B backbeat drive this one, with support from some catchy synth patches inspired by Asian folk music. The vocals fly all over the octave spectrum, so obscured in a melt of processing that discerning the lyrics is nearly impossible (which is largely true through most of the set). It is the most delicate of the bunch, and perhaps the only song to convince the listener of the possibility of cuddling after all of this is over.
The EP pulsates in that territory for most of its run, finding beauty and light in the darkness and the profane. More creative than The Weeknd, less angry than Tricky, and not as homicidal as Salem, Purple’s Salvation is a brilliant, if noncommittal, form of redemption.
My message to Purple: Let us in. We’ve been in your beautiful dungeon. What is there to lose?