Everywhere you look at the moment, 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, Perpetual Surrender, is eight tracks full of lush arrangements and blissed-out atmospherics
DIANA consist of Joseph Shabason, Kieran Adams and singer Carmen Elle, with Paul Mathew recently joining the live line up, Shabason and Adams met while studying jazz at music college where they played extensively together. Having lent their skills (saxophone and drums, respectively) to many bands, it was a leap of faith to make their own full-length album. But the time has come
After a songwriting sabbatical in the Canadian countryside, Shabason and Adams went into the studio with engineer and co-producer Roger Leavens. They asked Toronto musician and vocalist Carmen Elle to sing on a track, as both Kieran and Joseph knew her from her work with other bands such as the much feted but short-lived Spiral Beach, all of whose members have since gone on to play in various successful Canadian bands. The pair thought her voice might add something special, this turned out to be a huge understatement. Even though Shabason and Adams wrote the songs, the lyrics and melodies belong to Elle the moment they escape her mouth, each nuance of phrasing and melody deepening the sentiments. With this last dazzling piece of the puzzle in place, DIANA was born
Right from the first note you’re reeled into DIANA’s intimate world, with the dense, ambient swell that begins album opener ‘Foreign Installation‘. A heady mix of drums, electric guitar and lush production, all sewn together and lifted by Carmen’s soothing vocal, their sound is addictive from the off. The pace is picked up with ‘That Feeling’, the detached refrain “We were blind to all the ways we sat and watched it fade away…” echoing through a mist of synths layered over insistent drums and bass. It’s future music with an undeniable pop sensibility, though never overwhelming, the glossy yet sparse production always leaving just enough room for the imagination
Album title track ‘Perpetual Surrender’ boasts an impressive travelling bassline, with Carmen’s gorgeous vocal repeating “I need saving from myself” over blown beats and perhaps the year’s best indie sax solo, all coming together to create well over four minutes of eerie, blissed-out ambience
There are further delights to be found, such as 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
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
Buy it here
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