DIIV – Oshin
July 6, 2012
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Staying current by interacting with the meta is always an odious task. Take for example the decision last year by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary to remove the word cassette tape whilst adding others that unfortunately sum up global culture in a nutshell; the troika of words – sexting, mankini, retweet. So it should perhaps be even more celebrated that unlike an institution such as the Oxford Dictionary that resolves a tension between past and present by simply deleting words; DIIV can somehow meld together musical genres which seem to be conflicting – of course I’m talking about the manifestation that is dream pop. The unique mix that DIIV bring is the fusion of world music influences such as Baba Salah, a Malian guitarist, and other artists closer to home such as Nirvana and C86 bands.
I know a lot of people like to make comparisons so here is problem the most pertinent band comparison that you can make with DIIV. They are like The Cure. If you know The Cure you’ll immediately get a sense of what I mean, if not, well you should give them a listen because like it or not The Cure are one of those stalwarts that are quite convenient for name dropping. So you can make a vacuous statement like ‘Robert Smith is such a genius’ and most people will just nod their heads in sage agreement. Although to be fair The Cure weren’t exactly the sound that DIIV were going for when they were in the studio; it turns out that lead singer and main songwriter Zachary Cole Smith had never heard of them (apparently he loves them now) until they were brought to his attention by some internet reviewers.
The main professed influence for the band is Krautrock, at least for Zachary Cole Smith which is particularly significant given that this band incarnation of DIIV is more of a touring vehicle for Smith rather than a collaboration of ideas; in the sense that Washed Out is a live band for Ernest Greene. This is a phenomenon that has become more prevalent; I can speculate to say this is just an example of labels and their increased cost cutting so the development of an already refined solo artist who can readily be transformed into a touring group is preferable. However this is not to say that the band is not made up of some very talented individuals such as Colby Hewitt (ex Smith Westerns), Andrew Bailey and Ruben Perez who form the rest of the band.
So what’s the album like? Considering that DIIV changed their original name from Dive due to respect for a pre-existing Belgian band the action in of itself does say a lot to the demeanour of the band. DIIV are careful to pay homage to the multitude of influences without bastardising them. In this sense its not surprising that there isn’t really a standout track to this album, it really is an album that needs to be listened to as a whole. Maybe this is just particular to this genre but to fully appreciate this album you can’t just go about looking out for hit singles. Whilst it does escalate into a grand crescendo with tracks such as Sometime and Doused at the end of the album to get to this unadulterated high the experience of going through the delicate arpeggios in How Long Have You Known which is refreshingly tranquil.
Oshin is an album that is firmly entrenched in the ‘grower’ camp, it won’t overwhelm you at first but it definitely is worthy enough to be our album of the week. If you enjoy this album I would recommend checking out some stuff by Beach Fossils which have similar guitar melodies that are arguably more uplifting.