Live Music + Gig Reviews

DIIV @ Shacklewell Arms, London

20 August 2012

Does anyone remember Penny Crayon. No? Well, Penny Crayon can draw anything she wishes. Like talking cows, rhinoceros, and plates of chips and fishes. But Penny Crayon’s drawings come alive quite magically, causing lots of bother, just you watch and see. Eee. Eeee.

At the moment when DIIV announced they were playing a song called Air Conditioning, there wasn’t a man, woman or child crammed into the room who didn’t wish that in addition to being a four-piece band from New York, they were also the descendants of that cartoon girl, able to cause the physical manifestation of anything they decided to sing about.

But they, seemingly, aren’t. So it was hot. God it was hot. So distractions were necessary. Fortunately, DIIV are a really distracting band. One of the strangest things about their debut album Oshin is what it does to your temporal perception. Not in a bad way, not the painful stretching of the time you get listening to the new single from Nickleback, it’s more a delightful elongation displaying the wealth of possibilities each second can possess. Tracks are immersive enough to make you imagine they’ve been chugging along for hours when in fact they are less than three minutes long.

It’s a phenomenon which occurs when they play live, and it had the side effect of making the first half of the tonight’s set feel a bit curtailed. From the opening instrumental (Druun) up until the aforementioned Air Conditioning there was a sense of being teased as songs kept coming to a jarring halt just as a hypnotic haze was beginning to fall.

If it was meant as a tease, it worked. Because the second half, where they let things extend out a bit, was excellent. The yearning How Long Have You Known is like someone trying to remember an obscure Cure number while under heavy sedation. Their cover of Bambi Suicide (by Kurt Cobain) is like someone trying to remember an obscure Nirvana song while under heavy sedation, AND an unshakeable belief that they would have been immeasurably improved with a healthy dose of shoegazing expansiveness, and Doused is just superb. Clutching the most potent in a night filled with potent basslines and a chiming, echoing guitar attack, it is a brilliant way to end.

There’s also something a little incongruous about them. You look at them and it doesn’t seem to fit with the way they sound. The precise way the arcs of melody crescendo just doesn’t quite seem in keeping with the slightly grungey characters leaping up and down on stage in fairly joyous abandon. The way they sound, you expect static, stoic concentration. But you don’t get that.

And a little bit of incongruity goes a long way. This was a dreamy, hugely enjoyable performance that for forty five minutes made you completely forget you were melting.

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More on DIIV
DIIV – Is The Is Are
DIIV @ Shacklewell Arms, London
DIIV – Oshin