If changing your band name from Dive to DIIV isn’t a study in subtle variations, then their similarly misspelled debut album, Oshin, definitely is. (Staring at their album cover, suddenly I’m thinking of the curly-haired lesbian in Girls, who can “usually tell” when someone thinks her name is spelled with a “c.”) Mirroring the vocally unnoticeable differences between one collection of letters and the other, Oshin is an album blanketed by an almost single sound – rock music swishing inside a washing machine from the 1980s, stuck in an eternal spin cycle that somehow sighs summer between the suds.
Another product of the new fairy tale, DIIV’s origin story begins with one man holed up in a Brooklyn basement, playing obscure tapes and inventing whirling melodies, the lo-fi loner. This man understands himself and the nature of nothingness in a mystical way we otherlings can only dream of – he contemplates his floorboards with the careful eye of an observant master. This man is Zachary Cole Smith, this time.
Smith has a weird anti-connection to Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils, having played with the band but never appearing on their recordings to date. Instead, Smith’s been stuck in bedroom brain circles, zoning and droning with his newly formed four-piece whose atmospheric and aimless tunes evoke a sun-splattered windshield and the feeling of letting go – repetitive tunes that become almost trance-like. Though they lack an ultimate revelation, with single phrases sprinkled in and stirred around until they mirror themselves in a warped way that reveals nothing, Oshin seamlessly soundtracks a mental pause, a moment to look around if not listen close.
The songs merge together in a jangling upbeat, matched with the sound of falling glitter and Smith’s breathy vocals, smacked with a consistent snare. Together, they create infinity – a languorous snake eating its tail – a circular sound only slightly modified from one track to the next until the abrupt end of the second-to-last, “Douse,” and the accompanying silence. With that hard stop, the reverie is broken, and you shake the hazy slumber out of your ears, crawling down the stairs only to be put back to sleep by the final track, “Home.”
A beautiful lullaby and a sweet sign off, “Home” is different from the rest, less whirring and snare-free, dreamy and ethereal. But its logic is just as circular, with Smith & Co. singing, “You’ll never have a home/Til you go home.” I wish I could see this record spinning on a turntable, just to complete the perfect circle. For DIIV’s debut, the end is the beginning is the middle, and either nothing is everything or it’s just nothing.