DIIV – Deceiver
DIIV's new album is a dark but empathetic account of coming to terms with physical and mental pain, and how an individual's behaviour and experiences can touch all of those around them
It's been a rough few years for DIIV. Zachary Cole Smith, the man at the centre of the project, has come to terms with the ripple effect of addiction and sought help; relationships have disintegrated; one of the band’s members was (rightly) cancelled and subsequently asked to leave the group; and Smith all but disowned the intentions of their last record.
'I can see you’ve had some struggles lately / Hey man, I’ve had mine too', says Smith on Skin Game, from new record Deceiver. It’s a simple statement of empathy, for himself, for the listener, for all those whose lives his struggles touched. Smith is finally in a place to find that empathy.
If Is the Is Are “trivialises” recovery, Deceiver paints a much more three-dimensional portrait – it doesn’t seek to euphemise or glamorise it with soaring dream-pop. DIIV’s first album Oshin was a spellbinding bolt from the blue. In sonics alone, Deceiver casts a suffocatingly dark shadow. Horsehead, For the Guilty and Lorelei lean on swelling bass-heavy grungy guitars. On all but one track (The Spark, which contains pin-sharp tones to make your heart flutter) those gliding basslines are replaced with muddy slowcore trudges. It's often overwhelmingly grim – but narratively it fits. Smith – who for the first time is not taking on DIIV’s creative output solely on his own shoulders, working instead with bandmate Colin Caulfield – sings with renewed clarity, and even though thematically there is a wider collaborative effort, there is no getting away from how tied all of this is to Smith’s experiences.
Bending Loveless-esque strings blanket the listener, and that’s this record's most immediate joys, but Smith has never written lyrics so refreshingly discernible. 'The years I lived in vain / Chasing the pain with pain', he sings on Taker. We often require the artists we love to vomit out the pain in their lives, and more often the coming to terms and understanding of it, with full and rapid resolution. Smith has taken his time, and made mistakes, in comprehending what he’s been through. And Deceiver is all the more honest for it. Impressively, that doesn’t shine through intricate detailing but as something more abstract. Deceiver sounds like that experience, more than it describes it. And there’s hope at the end too.
Listen to: Like Before You Were Born, Skin Game, The Spark