DIIV: Playing on Prefix

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Playing on Prefix is a feature on KCRW’s Music Blog in which writers from the eclectic music site Prefix hip you to what’s coming out of their computer speakers each week

Beach Fossils guitarist Zachary Cole Smith named his new band Dive because liked the Nirvana song “Dive”; plus, everyone in the band is a water sign and it seemed to make sense.

Then he changed Dive’s named to DIIV, because there’s already a Belgian industrial rock band called Dive and Smith didn’t want to step on their toes. Nirvana’s “Dive” is a snarling, 1-2 stomp of signature grunge. “Dive in meeeeeeeee,” howls Kurt Cobain, not making his invitation sound very inviting.

If DIIV truly has its roots in “Dive“, then they’ve adopted Krist Novoselic’s propulsive bass but smoothed out the grittiness until their sound is seamless and expansive.

DIIV’s music is good because it doesn’t aspire to be great — or Great. Smith released a couple of demo singles (“Human” and “Sometime“) before he got the group together and recorded the material for “Oshin, which came out last month and is slowly but surely shapeshifting into the perfect soundtrack for the summer of ’12.

Beach, forest, BBQ, long walk, pool party, car ride, air-conditioned bedroom: DIIV make music that can fit anywhere. Because their sound is so mutable, the band risks ending up faceless and forgettable. Good thing Smith knows how make even longform, instrumental, chorus-less songs memorable.

This is owing largely to tone. “Oshin”’s tone is delicious.

Just listen to “Wait“, which has a melody that packs pure sunniness above and below the mumbled vocals (I can’t distinguish anything Smith sings, save for “in the citaaaayyy” over and over) before dissolving into a textural hash of fuzz and feedback.

Smith has named a few of his influences for DIIV: Krautrock, world music, bands on NME’s famous C86 mixtape, and of course, Nirvana. You can hear the ‘80s influences in songs like “Past Lives” and “Air Conditioning“, whose noodly guitar diversions and indulgent twangs of feedback sound just like Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me-era The Cure.

“Oshin” isn’t all dreamy rambling — the percussion (drummer Colby Hewitt is an alum of Smith Westerns) focuses the dreaminess.

DIIV – “Doused” by selftitledmag

The best songs on the album, “Doused” and “(Druun, Pt. II)” unleash every positive physical effect of uptempo drums: racing pulse, chills, the urge to bop around on the subway. It’s like motorcycle gang music for people afraid of riding motorcycles.

In a Q&A with Interview, Smith described his demands when recording with producer Daniel Schlett: “Turn that compression up more! Like, turn it up all the way and we’ll see what it sounds like.” And then he’d turn it up all the way and be like, “Ugh, you like that?” and I’d be like, “That’s perfect.” And it is pretty perfect.”

DIIV is going on tour with Wild Nothing through November, starting in Columbus, Ohio and ending in Cologne, Germany. Catch them somewhere along the way.

by Molly O’Brien