RIDE with DIIV
September 21, 2015
Currently comprised of founding member, Z. Smith, a former touring guitarist in Soft Black, Darwin Deez and Beach Fossils (vocals and guitar); Andrew Bailey, Smith’s childhood friend (guitar); Devin Ruben Perez (bassist); and Ben Newman, the New York-based quartet DIIV can trace their origins to when Smith started the project as a solo recording project; in fact, the band’s first two singles, “Sometime” and “Human” were initially recorded solely by Smith and had acted as demos were released by renowned indie label, Captured Tracks. With the release of their full-length debut, Oshin, an album with material influenced by krautrock, C86 (a legendary compilation of British indie labels and bands released through NME back in the mid 80s), Nirvana and world music (in particular, Malian guitarist Baba Salah), the quartet quickly received attention across the blogosphere, including praise from Pitchfork and Stereogum – and a result they toured with The Vaccines in the UK and Canadian duo Japandroids
Since the release of Oshin, DIIV have been pretty busy as they’ve managed to maintain a busy touring schedule with Smith being incredibly prolific, as he has reported written more than 150 songs over the past year, with a number of unreleased songs being played at live shows. Eventually some of that material wound up comprising the band’s sophomore effort Is the Is Are, which is slated for a release sometime this month. But before the release of their sophomore effort, the band opened for the legendary pioneers of shoegaze, RIDE at Irving Plaza.
Most of DIIV’s set was comprised of material that struck me as possessing a resemblance to A Storm In Heaven-era The Verve but meshed with 120 Minutes-era alternative rock as their sound was incredibly lush and atmospheric shoegaze but seemed to draw from the likes of The Smiths, The Cure, The Unforgettable Fire-era U2 and others; in other words, the material consisted of shimmering guitar chords played through reverb and delay pedals paired with propulsive four-on-the-floor like drumming leading a tight rhythm section and ethereal vocals. Occasionally synths would join in here and there on a song, which considering its overall sound shouldn’t be terribly surprising. Certainly, if you were alive in the 80s, it sounds all too familiar, as you’d likely remember hearing something like DIIV’s sound on the radio or on MTV. And although it wasn’t the most original thing I’ve heard while at a live show this year, I was impressed by how gorgeous their live sound was, and how quietly self-assured and free-flowing (to the point of seeming improvised, really) the band and their material was – as though they were old pros, touring and playing from their eighth full-length. If there was one thing I would have wished for it would have been this: their set, which was a quick paced 35 minutes could have been a bit longer, considering that RIDE didn’t get on stage until about 9:15. Regardless, DIIV was a worthy opener as their sound and aesthetic fit so well with RIDE.
(Photo Caption: DIIV performing at Irving Plaza, last month)
The Oxford, UK-based quartet RIDE, comprised of Andy Bell, Mark Gardener, Laurence “Loz” Colbert and Steve Queralt, are considered by critics and fans to be among the pioneers of the shoegaze sound – interestingly, despite the fact that the band reportedly loathed the term. After releasing four albums, Smile (1990), Nowhere (1990), Going Blank Again (1992) and Tarantula (1996) and a couple of EPs, the quartet split up in 1996, and although they haven’t released new, original material in almost 20 years, the band has managed to be among a handful of British shoegazer bands that have remained remarkably relevant and influential, including The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Stone Roses, the aforementioned, The Verve (who, I’ve long argued have been tragically overlooked here in the States), The Catherine Wheel, Lush and a few others. In the case of the Oxford-based quartet, a number of contemporary bands have publicly cited them as an influence on their sound and songwriting approach including Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Panda Bear and countless others, and as a result it has brought attention and new fans to a band that has been broken up longer than the time they’ve actually spent as a band.
Fans of each of the aforementioned shoegaze acts are a rather devoted lot, and with increasing interest on RIDE and their material, there has been an increasing demand for at least a reunion show, if not a reunion tour; in fact, reportedly, the members of Radiohead, who are also from Oxford, had desperately begged the shoegaze pioneers to play an opening, reunion set as early as 2001 – the band declined. And with the members of RIDE focusing on other creative projects – in particular, Gardener has developed a reputation as a producer – a reunion show seemed highly improbably, if not impossible.
Last November, RIDE fans were surprised to hear that the band was going to be reuniting and embarking on their first world tour in 20 years to support the re-issue of their career retrospective OX4 box set. And from watching their two sets on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic and from catching them live, it’s obvious to me that the close to two decades apart hasn’t affected the band’s chemistry or their sound. Over the course of their two-hour set, which including a rather lengthy encore, they covered every highlight of their career, starting off the set with “Leave Them Behind,” one of my favorite RIDE songs. And throughout the set, their sound managed to walk a very careful tightrope between lushly ethereal, muscular, trippy, jangling and murky while being propelled forward with a tight, motorik groove, which gives their expansive songs the sense of being composed from extensive jam sessions. Naturally, as a result, their material frequently exceeds the 5-minute mark – in particular, “Leave Them Behind” is more than 8 minutes long. Of course, it gives the material a heady feel that’s just downright incredible – and it’s paired with a swooning Romanticism and an ironic, seemingly British detachment. At the end of the day, it was arguably one of the best sets of live music I’ve seen this year.
(Photo Caption: RIDE performing at Irving Plaza last month.)
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