DIIV is more than just a band: it’s an idea. Despite forming less than a year ago, the shoegaze, dream pop band’s first release, Oshin, sounds nothing like a debut. This observation is astonishing, considering that the majority of the songs on the album were written during May of last year by Zachary Cole Smith, the band’s front man (more commonly known as the live guitarist for label-mate Beach Fossils). Soon after, the group came together as an impressive four-piece that includes Andrew Bailey, Devin Ruben Perez and former Smith Westerns member Colby Hewitt.
The short and seemingly rushed union doesn’t hinder the album. Rather, there’s evidence the members contribute to the harmonies — every band member is a water sign, and this is hardly a coincidence. DIIV, originally named Dive, clearly had a subject in mind. If DIIV is an idea, Oshin can easily be explained as a manifestation of that idea. The band’s play on words — as can be seen in their name, album title and track titles — creates a defamiliarization that deemphasizes the importance of words, or at least the technical side of writing (spelling), which in turn stresses the abstract as well as the actual sounds and the power of instruments to produce a sonic experience. This idea permeates throughout the album, which includes many instrumentals and minimal, muffled lyrics that resemble tidal echoes.
At the same time, the word modification makes more obvious the very experience Oshin means to portray. The entire album ascends and cascades, ebbs and flows — the hollow, jangly sounds of the 12-string guitar melt into the atmospheric void of every song, sinking listeners into an expansive and frighteningly large… ocean. Each song provides some part of this great expanse: we rise with “(Druun)” and “Past Lives,” but soon fall until the next wave arrives with “How Long Have You Known?” These undulations continue until Oshin subsides with the calm of “Home.” While few songs stand out, each “wave” is unique and well-crafted. The tranquil, aqueous melodies never fail to submerge and drown listeners’ ears. If DIIV is an idea, then the idea is this: Their music allows us to dive into a doused world that mirrors our own in its natural rises and falls.
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