I spent every day of the summer of 2012 in the same manner: I’d wake up to an empty house, put on my uniform and make the routine journey to work – a 5 minute walk, a 15 minute bus ride, and another 5 minute walk – serving coffee to strangers, cleaning bathrooms, washing cups, day-in, day-out. Not that I minded; the monotony of it all was the perfect entry point into the immersive world of DIIV’s debut. Recent times have seen the ‘dream-pop’ tag forced upon new bands, but here it feels wholly essential.
The legend goes that project founder Zachary Cole Smith sourced band members under the guidance of astrology: ‘everybody in the band is a water sign’. Uncannily, it translates rather explicitly into the music: Smith’s vocals feel submerged under a wave of elastic basslines and fluid guitars, slowly drifting in and out in a tidal-like fashion. Yet this remains entirely melodic music, as the earworm of a guitar riff on How Long Have You Known attests. Doused, with all its urgency, is the only other track that sticks out on first listens, though this highlights the point of the record – one that will undoubtedly divide opinion.
It’s often said that one’s favourite music earns its title via emotional connections. Thanks to Smith’s unintelligible vocals, the touches of vintage synthesisers, and the lashings of reverb that coat these 13 tracks, DIIV successfully construct a uniformed canvas from which to project personal sentiment. For me, the motorik pulse of (Druun Pt. II) is a bus journey speeding down the residential blocks, Home is the advent of my return to University, and even on its one-hundredth play, Follow is still reminiscent of a romance long-passed.
So expertly crafted is Oshin’s trip – instrumental interludes and all – that it’s difficult to argue that this wasn’t precisely the intent of Smith when he first envisioned DIIV. With only the most commonly used raw materials, he’s managed to create a fully formed escapist record, a sensory experience that lasts far longer than its 40 minutes.