Reverb-laden Dream Pop Fills The Catalyst

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Zachary Cole Smith’s stage presence is interesting, though admittedly unassuming. Dressed in black, head to toe, Smith’s small frame was engulfed in a linen shirt stretching down to his knees and oversized black pants.  This is typical for the DIIV (pronounced dive) front man and he stayed true to form during his show last Wednesday night inside The Catalyst’s Atrium.

DIIV, a five-piece New York based band formed in 2011, has blown up in the past two years thanks to their brand of eerie dream-pop. Their sound lies staunchly at the intersection of shoegaze giants like My Bloody Valentine, dark post-punk jams reminiscent of Disintegration era The Cure and synthy Kraftwerk-esque 80’s krautrock.

Prior to DIIV’s appearance, artist Chris Cohen opened with two other members rounding out his band. Their sound was wistful and gentle, the kind of record you might reach for when wanting time to clear your head. Low and slightly aloof, his frail voice beckoned a sort of intimacy not unlike Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan.

At this point, the crowd was not very large, which might have been expected for a Wednesday night. More and more people would trickle in as Cohen’s set progressed, making for a pretty crowded house by the time DIIV took the stage.

Forgoing pleasantries and awkward on-stage banter, DIIV launched into their set, choosing to wait until they were two songs in to introduce themselves.  They played a solid set, mostly pulling from their 2012 debut Oshin, with a couple of new and rare songs sprinkled throughout.

 A DIIV show is loud, delicately balanced by Smith’s echoing vocals that read misty through the feedback of the monitors. While most of the band’s songs teeter on the edge of melancholy, danceability was not an issue. The crowd of well-coiffed and even better dressed youth shook their shoulders and swayed their bodies with no abandon.

A major highlight of the night was when the band seamlessly transitioned from the instrumental track, “Druun Pt. 2,” into a strangely intoxicating cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”. In their re-imagining of Dylan’s folk classic, the melody was almost unrecognizable replaced by fuzzy, distorted guitar solos and Smith’s voice shrouded under clouds of reverb.

The mosh pit that had been slowly brewing near the center of the crowd erupted when the stark, steady bass line marking the intro of “Doused” crawled out of the speakers. The song, one of the more popular off Oshin, edges into a darker side of dream-pop.  A mass of glistening foreheads bounced their way toward the front of the stage, thrashing their bodies together like a single entity.

DIIV called it a night there — but only for a second. They returned for a three song encore, having let the crowd in on the ‘secret’ a few minutes prior. The band was joined by singer-songwriter Sky Ferreira for a haunting cover of Cat Power’s “Nude as the News.” Ferreira’s powerful voice made for a grungy, angry take on the original.

Capping the show off with “Geist” and “Wait”, DIIV’s set was a magnetic experience for those in attendance. From start to finish, moony melodies wormed their way into fans’ brains lulling them into a world of their own creation.

 

Check out DIIV’s music video for the single “How Long Have You Known?” here.

 

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