Everywhere you look right now, there’s another female-fronted synth group deeply in thrall to the ’80s popping up. Just this year, we’ve had announced or released albums from Haim, AlunaGeorge and Chvrches, and now from Toronto come DIANA, a quartet so in love with the 1980s that it’s a surprise to learn they’ve not had a Frankie Say t-shirt and a snood surgically removed.
DIANA could in fact be technically described as a supergroup, if you have a particularly in-depth knowledge of various Canadian indie-pop bands. Consisting of sometime members of The Hidden Cameras, Army Girls and Destroyer, their debut album is eight tracks full of lush arrangements and blissed-out atmospherics. Rather like Rhye, this is an album to lie back and sink into, and have the day-to-day cares of the world washed away.
In fact, that link with Destroyer makes perfect sense. There are times during Perpetual Surrender where it sounds like a spiritual successor to Dan Behar’s acclaimed Kaputt album – there’s the same Eighties sheen and often incongrous sounding saxophone solos, courtsey of Joseph Shabason, and most importantly, some beautifully crafted songs. If people still used the genre ‘chill-wave’ to describe music, this would fit right in there.
Opening track Foreign Installation sets the mood right from the off, with vocalist Carmen Elle sounding like Lana Del Rey if her vocals had been shredded through several effects machines. It’s languid and lush, and bursts into a glorious chorus, and by the time the song closes after a ludicrously long and rather over-the-top guitar solo, you’ll know whether you’re in for the ride.
If you are, there’s much delights to be found, such as the shimmering disco-funk of This Feeling, the confident strut of Strange Attraction, or the ghostly, almost skeletal hush of New House. There’s a heart and a passion underneath the smooth sheen though – the aforementioned New House is heart-meltingly gorgeous, while Born Again could well be the best thing on the record, featuring a stirring chorus of “lay your hands on me, I need healing” that will rattle round your brain hours after listening.
Like the previously mentioned Rhye, there’s also a debt to Sade here, especially in the ice cool vocals of Elle. And, also like Rhye, there’s not much variation of pace – so anyone who finds the rather leisurely tone unappealing may not find too much to enjoy. There are also moments that seem a bit grating, such as the sudden saxophone solos, but that’s all part of the charm of this idiosyncratic album.
At only eight tracks long, it’s a record that never outstays its welcome and, by the time the strains of the utterly gorgeous closing instrumental Curtains fades out, you’ll probably want to go back right to the beginning again. This is a glacially beautiful album that you’ll do well to spend a lot of time with.