It's been almost three years since DIANA released their critically-acclaimed LP, Perpetual Surrender. Now, the wait for new material has come to an end with the upcoming release of their second album Familiar Touch. The band have also shared the album's opening track, 'Confession' - a sharply focused example of their statement of intent, and which follows on from the previously shared 'Slipping Away'.
Having initially conceived Perpetual Surrender as a one-off recording project, Kieran Adams (drums, drum machines, synths), Carmen Elle (guitars, vocals) and Destroyer touring band member Joseph Shabason (synths, samplers, saxophone) regrouped after a period of time that Elle describes as "learning how to be a band." Bigger, fuller and far more open and expansive, Familiar Touch takes all of Perpetual Surrender's gorgeous qualities and pushes the songs to the forefront, upping DIANA's game tremendously.
'Miharu' is the perfect example of this: recalling the best mid-80's alt-pop, it mixes the lush soul signature of Flyte Time Productions (Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis) while delivering a massive pop chorus that liquefies into their modern production nous. "I really love the silky rub between Carmen's demure approach and Gary's [Beals, additional vocals] vibrant punctuations," Adams explains, his description also perfectly encapsulating 'Moment of Silence' - another sophisticated pop track with what Adams describes as having "a very smooth top layer" and synths that give the impression of "stretching time - being stretched thin in those moments." 'Confession' also builds upon those Jam & Lewis rhythms, with Adams describing it as sounding like the pair "if they worked with Annie Lennox."
Where Perpetual Surrender was the unexpected success of a group of friends experimenting with different sounds, Familiar Touch is the sound of them taking those experiences and maximising themselves as a proper band. "There was a much different studio flow - we started working on things close to a year before we recorded them," says Adams. "Last time, we were obscuring what it was that we were doing - with washed out or distorted vocals, for example. With this album - particularly with the vocals - we conceptualised everything a lot more in advance and really committed to certain sounds and feelings. We tried to fight the instinct of trying to distort it."
One thing that's clear this time around is how much more confidence DIANA have in themselves as musicians. The trio decamped to Adams' then-apartment, where the pressures of a second album and the time constraints of a regular studio were relieved. Renting their own gear, they made makeshift vocal booths of out of clothes cupboards and Star Wars sleeping bags (or "weird, fucked up musty vocal caves" as Shabason describes them). Upon listening to the record, it's hard to believe Familiar Touch was made in such a compact environment. With its emboldened production, it sits pleasingly alongside their personal influences and seminal recordings such as Prefab Sprout's Steve McQueen or Yellow Magic Orchestra's Naughty Boys.
Mixed by Chris Coady (TV on the Radio, Beach House, Grizzly Bear) and mastered by Heba Kadry, Familiar Touch is also lent a skilled hand by Thom Gill (guitars, keys, piano), Bram Gielen (bass), Vince Spilchuk (trumpet), and vocalists Robin Dann, Alanna Stuart of Bonjay and aforementioned Gary Beals - runner-up on the first season of Canadian Idol. By having the space and time to work with their new ideas on their own terms, this time around, DIANA have crafted an album that sounds unabashedly vibrant and distinctly 2016.
2. What You Get
3. Slipping Away
4. Moment of Silence
5. The Coward
9. These Words
10. Take it Over