Like all recent acts still working the chillwave formula, DIANA brings the blur. The quartet’s vocalist, Carmen Elle, sings softly, often smothered by wooly keyboard blankets; the sustain settings are often high, and there’s little here that’s fast or jarring. But significant variations on the familiar formula flow throughout this Toronto band’s debut album. The guitar solo on opening cut “Foreign Installation”, for one, is in no way “indie” — it burns showily in the prog-rock style of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. Elsewhere there is sax by band co-founder Joseph Shabason, whose Roxy Music-y woodwinds helped define Destroyer’s Kaputt, and prominent basslines from former Hidden Cameras contributor Paul Mathew that swing from ’80s funk (“That Feeling”) to ’70s jazz fusion: Check his mournful Jaco Pastorius-esque solo that opens the title track. No chillwave there, bro!
There are, of course, some of the genre’s defining elements at play here, and for the most part we’re not complaining: Kieran Adams’s snappy drums that reverberate through “Strange Attraction” and “Anna” could’ve been lifted from just about anything from the ’80s Factory Records catalogue (New Order, Section 25, etc.). But even “Born Again,” the band’s first synth-washed and squishy track, sports roaring guitar eruptions in its climactic final moments that are far more Adrian Belew than Bernard Sumner. Much of the album could’ve been remixed to maximize distinctions between cuts, but Perpetual Surrender serves as beguiling introduction, and the band is already working on a sequel.