diiv_deceiver

Courtesy of Captured Tracks

October 17, 2019

TEST SPIN | DIIV — Deceiver

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DIIV is that indie rock band every indie rock fan would claim as their favorite band at some point, believing they are the only one that knows this emerging hot band. Signed on to the independent record label Captured Tracks, the band, along with Mac Demarco, Wild Nothing and Beach Fossils, fostered the resurgence of indie rock with the lush of shoegaze and the sonic texture of dream-pop in Brooklyn in the 2010s. Perhaps coining their music as the Pitchfork sound would more precisely capture the nuances of the formation and the proliferation of the music scene. While they are by no means representative of the diversity of indie rock (their rather homogeneous image amplifies the dominating white male narrative in the genre), they did craft the new indie sound from a local music scene in the Internet age –– the sound that is easy enough to enjoy yet sophisticated enough that those who are not cultured can not readily comprehend.

Deceiver is the follow-up to their critically acclaimed Is the Is Are in 2016. The shoegaze band’s third album is a refined record brewed in the retrospection of their career with finesse and contemplation. The theme of Deceiver builds on that of its predecessor. Is the Is Are is a poignant portrait of substance abuse and recovery; Deceiver, on the other hand, underscores and unleashes the darker hues of the affliction and depression that has been looming in the band for years. The album serves as DIIV’s post-mayhem recollection after a series of trials and turmoils buried the band in perplexity and oblivion. After the release of Is the Is Are, the band’s frontman Zachary Cole Smith referred to the record as a “big lie” in a 2017 interview, as he felt that he trivialized the struggle of rehabilitation and equivocated his failed attempt with the lush of sound. Deceiver serves as the follow-up to Smith’s confession that leverages his vulnerability into his emotional resilience, which is reminiscent of James Blake’s sentimental and powerful statement on his history of struggle with depression and his rejection of the “sad boy” label.

Deceiver also marks a refreshing reboot of DIIV, as it is the first record the band recorded without former bassist Devin Ruben Perez. Back in 2014, Perez posted racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic remarks on 4chan, a notorious online forum that is known for tolerating hate speech. After his acts came to light, DIIV faced public scorn and got caught in a public relations crisis. Perhaps this is why Is the Is Are sounds inauthentic at times, as the 2016 album was recorded as if the horrendous act had been an independent incident that had nothing to do with the band. While a deep conversation with Perez made Smith ultimately decide not to immediately dismiss Perez from the band after the controversy, Perez has not been an active member of the group since the end of 2017. As such, as the first authentic group effort of the band, the development of Deceiver resembles the long-awaited radical revamping of DIIV.

While Deceiver has not coherently delivered an answer to the turbulence, DIIV opens up the sentiments layered in deep regret with the moody distortion of the lead guitar. The melodic sound of the guitar in Deceiver is the band’s most experimental endeavor with the instrument as a  dynamic lead rather than as an icy ocean of distortion. The opening track “Horsehead” declares this new direction with its grunginess that bears resemblance to the post-punk revival. Songs like “Skin Game” and “Acheron,” with boisterous, groovy guitar work are pleasant surprises that come from the rather stagnant landscape of contemporary shoegaze. Moving on from exiling themselves in the lush of the wall of sound, as is in the case with Is the Is Are, DIIV delivers a poignant confession with Deceiver that acknowledges the need to move on from their past oblivious self. Despite drowning in the dark sea of substance abuse, DIIV made the vulnerable, yet powerful, proclamation to embrace themselves once again and start breathing with a beacon in mind, even though they are not sure how to paddle back to shore quite yet.

Stephen Yang is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at sy364@cornell.edu.