Release Date: Aug 20, 2013
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Club/Dance
After releasing their debut single "Born Again" in 2012, DIANA (Carmen Elle, Paul Mathew, Kieran Adams, and Joseph Shabason) got slapped with the descriptor "indie Sade," which is as good a place as any to start describing their impeccably-constructed tunes. But it's just that—a start. Sure, they're smooth operators, but the Toronto, Canada-based quintet pack a fair amount of unexpected twists and turns into their silky songs of love, lust, and loss.
Seeking a singer for one song on their new project, Torontonians Joseph Shabason and Kieran Adams (the killer sax/drum section from acts like Bonjay, Thunderheist and most notably Destroyer) recruited Carmen Elle. But when the song, Born Again, racked up thousands upon thousands of SoundCloud plays as well as international attention, they brought her in full-time. Those who follow the local music scene will recognize Elle as the singer/guitarist behind Army Girls.
Everywhere you look right now, 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.
DIANA began after another project that Toronto artists Joseph Shabason (whom you might recognize as the guy blowing saxophone all over Destroyer's Kaputt) and Kieran Adams had intended to work on fell through, leaving them with a bunch of studio time and Rural Alberta Advantage producer Roger Leavens at their disposal. Unsatisfied with demos that featured their own vocals, they eventually reached out to Carmen Elle, a friend who had toiled around the local music scene for years, playing guitar with Austra and fronting her own garage-rock duo, Army Girls. Almost immediately she became a full-time member of the group, assuming all of the band's vocal responsibilities, and the decision to bring her in pays out dividends on their full-length debut, Perpetual Surrender, a confident collection of vaseline-smeared synth-pop that marries chillwave atmospherics with strong songwriting.
Canada was quite the breeding ground for gauzy synth pop artists in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and by the time DIANA released their debut album, Perpetual Surrender, any act entering the fray encountered the risk of being seen as an also-ran. While DIANA certainly share some similarities with their more established peers -- in particular, breathy female vocals and hazily retro synth patches -- they also manage to put their own stamp on this ubiquitous sound. Where the Toronto-based quartet's contemporaries often take a more experimental or avant-garde approach to retro synth pop, DIANA go the opposite route, delivering more straightforward songs that could have been hits the first time this sound was popular.
It’s 1991 all over again in Canada, and if your goth doesn’t have a touch of the electronic about it then you’re nothing. Grimes is the queen of this gothtronica pile. But Diana, a supergroup of sorts including members of The Hidden Cameras and Destroyer, acquit themselves well thanks to a gift for electro that tends towards the chill of early rave, and icy female vocals from Carmen Elle.
Toronto, ON's finest new synth-pop group, DIANA face the unenviable task of bleeding vitality from an increasingly anaemic genre. Blame the melting melodies of singer Carmen Elle (of Army Girls infamy) and former Destroyer saxophonist Joseph Shabason, then, for the nagging brilliance of their quietly explosive debut, Perpetual Surrender, which isn't forgettable or derivative, but memorably evocative. Highlights are "Foreign Installation" and "Perpetual Surrender," the euphony of anaclitic lyrics, woolly ambience and wistful sax evoking Purity Ring strung out on the Blue Nile's soul downers.
Owing much – maybe everything – to the glossily escapist end of the 80s pop spectrum, the debut album from Toronto four-piece Diana is an occasionally beguiling recreation of the era. Throughout, retro drum sounds, overblown guitar and sax solos, synths and hiccupping female vocals appear amid the dense and lush textures; strain your ears and you can almost hear suit jacket sleeves being rolled up. While there are sublime moments – Born Again locates the midpoint between the Cocteau Twins and Avalon-era Roxy Music; closing instrumental Curtains is blissfully unhurried – too often style wins out over substance.
Surrender, militarily speaking, typically involves the culmination of antagonism, bloodshed, and some form of realized defeat. Surrender is bad enough once, but what about “perpetual” surrender? Yeah, that’s probably awful. “I need saving from myself,” aches Carmen Elle on “Perpetual Surrender”, the jazzy, love-pop title track to Toronto outfit DIANA’s debut album.
Revivalist efforts in synth pop tend to focus on the elements that defined the more left-field varieties of pop from the 80s and 90s. It’s an understandable pattern, as the attention to both that all-important hook and the timbral world surrounding it is what draws most people to such sounds — a hazy, dreamy world with a push-and-pull style that doesn’t often veer far from contemporary standards. With some exceptions, the visible focus of front-and-center melody builds an expectation not too distant from more generic pop music, though there’s also a dedicated effort to move away from that world with the adoption of retrospective instrumental choices.
A shimmery chord wells up amid bird calls and forest rustles to begin “Paracosm” (Sub Pop), the second album by Washed Out, Ernest Greene’s recording project. A paracosm is an imaginary world, and the one that’s conjured by Washed Out floats in a benign haze: “What’s it all about?/The ….
opinion byJEAN-LUC MARSH Everything old is new again. As the aphorism goes, antiquated styles are being exhumed from the tomb of time and retooled for a second life on the contemporary scene. Along with resurgent fads such as crop-tops and jelly sandals, shoegaze has returned from the nineties (please don't call it nu gaze). The genre, named after a penchant among performers for staring at their feet throughout a show in a state of transfixion, has infiltrated the realm of indie electronic music once again.
Perpetual Surrender’ is the debut album from hotly tipped Canadian trio DIANA who’ve recently shared the bill with the likes of our own CHVRCHES. Originally intended to be self titled, the name was changed to avoid any potential future legal troubles as bizarrely, there is already an album called ‘Diana’ by a band of the same name. When it comes to the music itself, it’s a heady concoction of jazz, soft rock and Eighties retro pop.