Three years have passed since the release of critically acclaimed Is the Is Are (2016) and DIIV have used the time well. In an attempt to move past the “homemade” sentiments of the last album, Deceiver offers a respite between chaos and order, a chance to fine-tune a few ideas, to mark a new era with something lasting and substantial.
Latest effort Deceiver describes itself as “metallic catharsis”, an attempt to face if not overcome the process of recovery that’s been stunted hitherto. Lead Zachary Cole Smith writes: “On Deceiver, I’m talking about working for the relationships in my life, repairing them, and accepting responsibility for the places I’ve failed them.”
In 2016, as in 2012, DIIV heard the shouts for a new brand of dream pop and tapped into the vein that was proving lucrative for young English Lo-Fi bands – Childhood, JAWS and the like. Perhaps there’s something to be said for the new album that the band have finally chosen to step away from making beach music, ditching the rose-tinted glasses and releasing an album in all the bleakness and the misery that early October can hold. It would be irresponsible to assume the grungy new face of DIIV represents a total start-over for the Brooklyn-based foursome; Deceiver is a continuation rather than a move away from the last record, but indicates a deliberate rethink of the creative process.
For a start, the hiring of producer Sonny Diperri (My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, Protomartyr) guides the album towards thick, tarry instrumentals. Those stoned vocals that weaved through the last record now sound moody, tired. Broadly speaking, it might be a ‘happy’ album about wellbeing and reparation, but it sure intends to drag you through the journey of how it got there first.
“I spent six months in several different rehab facilities,” Smith says. “I was living with other addicts. Being a recovering addict myself, there are a lot of questions like, ‘Who are we? What is this disease?’” Deceiver is the aftermath – the point at which the singer “finally accepted what it means to go through treatment and [commit].”
In virtue of the production, the ten track album comes off as one long reverberation of itself, occasionally switching tempo but retaining the same autumnal colour palette throughout. Perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps it’s indicative of these highly-stylised albums – Loveless, The Agent Intellect – that something is sacrificed between songs for a higher meaning.
Because Deceiver is about an idea, an emotion, this recurring chime of “it’s never quite enough” looping over and over in both ears while some guitar melody makes you sad for youth, sad for time, sad for some place in your mind that you can’t visit anymore. A smattering of suggestive terms and drug references give you a sense of what Deceiver is about, but it’s not there in clear terms.
It’s quite profound, in the end, the make-up of an album that can seamlessly bounce between the raw and personal relationship with affliction and these vague drones opening up headspace for the listener. It’s a literary album, careful and succinct, intent on saying what it has to say regardless of who’s listening. DIIV have, with Deceiver, stuck tight to the identity built up through previous albums while allowing themselves the space to explore new dimensions of thought.
Words by James Reynolds