It’s been a rough few years for Diiv. It’s nearly four years since they released their quite excellent debut Oshin, and for a while it seemed like a follow-up was never going to happen at all. Exhaustion, infighting, failed recording sessions, and various drug addictions (resulting in the departure of drummer Colby Hewitt) have all played their part in the bands protracted return. After frontman Zachary Cole Smith spent some time in rehab - after he and his girlfriend Sky Ferreira looked like they were on a way trip to Syd & Nancyville - they’ve managed to pull themselves back, and with a cracking album as well.
Is the Is Are begins pretty much where Oshin left off, with the opening two tracks, ‘Out of Mind’ and ‘Under the Sun’, delivering layers of spacey sunshine delay with pleasantly simple chiming hooks. There hasn’t been much of a change in sound, but an increased focus on sonic sound textures, most notably on the Neu-like title track. This gives the album an air of claustrophobia and anxiety that makes this a much less fun affair than its predecessor. But it is all the more interesting for it, mirroring the intensity, confusion, and overindulgence of addiction itself; Cole is unglamorisingly honest with his lyrics in ‘Dopamine’, singing ‘Burning out, running in place / Got so high I finally felt like myself.’ A few tracks later we’re being drowned in the oozy dripping textures of ‘Incarnate Devil’.
At 17 tracks clocking in at just over an hour, there’s quite a lot to get through, and at times the album could do with a little more room to breathe, with a couple of tracks like ‘Yr Not Far’ and ‘Loose Ends’ getting a little bit lost in the mix. All in all, Is the Is Are takes a few listens, but it’s definitely an album worth hearing.