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Album Review

DIIV – Is The Is Are

DIIV - Is The Is Are

A complex depiction of fractured personality.

Label: Captured Tracks
Released: 5th February 2016

Rating: ★★★★

Titling his album ‘Is The Is Are’, DIIV isn’t trying to be understood. With his new record, spent two years in the making, Zachary Cole Smith is presenting a portrait of who he is – flaws, misapprehensions, and all. “I feel like I’m fighting for my life” he echoes on the title track, and that spirit that very much runs through the whole of the album. Whether it’s contesting personal issues, wrangling to create, or disputing with some further meaning, he’s faced his battles and emerged with an album that bares his soul.

More immediate than debut ‘Oshin’, Cole’s vocals resonate from the forefront of the mix. Guitars shimmer and gleam around him, percussion rolling and driving in waves. It’s almost soothing, but upon delving under the bubbling riffs and distorted squalls, and peering behind the hazy vocals, DIIV presents something a whole lot darker. Glamorous, seductive, and entirely troubled, ‘Is The Is Are’ is the album he always needed to make.

Album opener ‘Out Of Mind’ buries everything deep beneath sparkling riffs and an exterior polished to grace, but all it takes is a few moments more for those tribulations to simmer to the surface, giving ‘Is The Is Are’ it’s visceral flavour. From the unabashed declaration of love on ‘Under The Sun’ through the red-raw shrieks of ‘Mire (Grant’s Song)’, the emotions portrayed on the record are cut straight from the core.

It’s nothing if it isn’t honest. ‘Take Your Time’ spirals through extended efforts of self-preservation, while the eponymous ‘Is The Is Are’ skirmishes with the endeavour head on. ‘Waste Of Time’ is rooted in its own misfortune, trudging steadily through the pre-emptive and reactive motions of instrumental disarray. On ‘Dust’ the guitars take full control. Cole’s vocals drone with a spaced-out detachment from everything around him, whilst solo melodies soar, screech, and tumble through a delirious chaos.

‘Is The Is Are’ is a complex depiction of fractured personality. Lost, found, happy, sad, in love, and desolately alone, DIIVs second record takes a format of success, and turns it into something so real you can practically taste it. Any sense of euphoric escapism has gone. Cole has found exactly who he is, and now he’s sharing that with you. Jessica Goodman