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.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares