June 24, 2012

Album Review: DIIV's Oshin

It isn't uncommon in the world of a struggling indie rocker to have something else in the works while your other, well-known band continues to gain traction, yet amassing a similar level of success isn't an easy fete. There's always going to be jumping over listeners' comparisons to your other band's sound and speculation into which makes the better music. Being a guitarist with a side-piece is probably the most daunting challenge considering your instrument holds an integral position in forming the band's style, and therefore, separating your unique identity between the two projects isn't as easy as say, throwing a different style behind some vocals. Z. Cole Smith of Beach Fossils has been up for the challenge however on DIIV, his guitar pop quartet that has seen huge strides in growth and transition ever since they were named a BUZZSound here late last year. On their debut album Oshin, it's Smith's obsession with guitar craftmanship that ultimately gives provides DIIV an identity all their own.

Failing to admit DIIV's sound shares any stylist overlap with Z. Cole Smith's work in Beach Fossils would be ignoring the obvious, but so do all bands on the lo-fi-centric dream pop roster at Captured Tracks (Wild Flag, Blouse, The Soft Moon, et. al.) The intricacy to detail is what I'm led to believe is the difference maker between the two, as DIIV treads rougher waters with quick-sped picking and unpredictable tempo for a seaside soundscape filled with deep-pulling undercurrents. A sunny, summer album this is not despite the water logic, as DIIV's Oshin is a magnificent storm brewing on the horizon where turgid clouds come in the form Smith's affinity for calculated restraint, the lack there of and repetition, as evidenced by the 13 tracks' well-plotted transitions (the bouncy instrumental opener "Druun" to the dotted manic melodies of  "Past Lives" and "Human" and back into the sky-wide serenity of "Air Conditioning," for example.) There are moments where DIIV let Oshin exhale to a collected calm as well, which make for the album's most fluttering, cohesive and strongest impressions that reflect an admirable influence from The Cure's early starry gaze ("How Long Have You Known," "Follow," "Sometime.") These again however are off-set beautifully by the arrival of the thunder in "Doused" and the musical storm's fleeting departure in "Home."

The end reward of DIIV's accomplished debut is that Oshin is layered exponentially, challenging you as the listener to uncover something different inside which wasn't there during the previous play. Much like its title would suggest, Oshin is vast and a familiar-looking sail on its surface level, but Z. Cole Smith has done his best work beneath the water by hiding its treasures among the wreckage and great unknown on the floor (one's that he's clearly kept safely-guarded even from his Beach Fossils friends.) Not content with treading shallow waters, he and DIIV excellently navigate an unpredictable riptide of guitar pop in their Oshin that will leave you wondering why no one bothered traveling this far off the map with the sound before.

DIIV's Oshin will be released June 26, 2012 on Captured Tracks.

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