Listening to Oshin, the debut release from New York-based indie band DIIV, actually gives me the feeling that I’m listening to a rock band play underwater. Not saying that’s a bad thing—just saying.
From the moment you, er, dive into this record, you understand that Oshin is about an experience, a sensation, rather than a tracklist. The best way I can describe it is that DIIV sounds like 80’s rock had a one-night stand with shoegaze, and the resulting baby sounds something akin to post-rock with the drumbeat still intact. The album relies almost completely on echo-laden guitar riffs to carry the melody, and what few vocals exist are so heavily effected that they sound very much like gargling. Hence the underwater illusion.
As to the band’s penchant for deliberately misspeled (sp.) words, that apparently started with a desire not to step on toes. Founded by Beach Fossils band member Zachary Cole Smith, this band was originally called Dive, but Smith changed the spelling when he discovered a Belgian industrial band had been performing under the that moniker for some time. Apparently, someone in the camp liked the intentional typo, and expanded the trend to the album title (pronounced “ocean”), as well as two tracks on the album named “Druun.” (Is it “drown” or “drone?” I can’t decide.)
However it all came about, DIIV has obviously made the leap into uncharted waters. (Sorry, I know it’s cheesy, but the temptation to vamp on the aquatic theme is just too great to resist.) There’s no point in highlighting specific songs, because it basically plays like progressive movements of the same symphony. This is one of those albums whose purpose is not to get you to sing along (sing along to what?), but rather to create atmosphere, and maybe get you dancing around the room. For that matter, the one thing about this album that doesn’t sound like it’s underwater is the beat—a solid 80’s rock rhythm that drives almost every song. (Never mind that it’s pretty much the same beat all the way through.)
I know some people won’t “get” this album, but it will definitely appeal to more eclectic/artsy tastes—and for all my underwater jokes, the overall sound is really quite beautiful. I totally understand why the critics seem to love Oshin, and why DIIV is…um…making waves with this record. I have a feeling we haven’t heard the last of them.
ALBUM RATING: 4 Stars (out of five)