Deep Sea Diver

When you hear the term massive thrown around for music, it often means stacks of amps or reverb or feedback or… you get the idea. But not all uses of massive are created equally. There’s another layer to the term, a layer that goes well beyond the sound. Jessica Dobson channels this seemingly intangible meaning of the word and collects it into the bold, progressive, and risk-taking artist she has morphed into through Deep Sea Diver. It’s the confidence that pulls you in and grasps your attention in the way an album like Secrets is fully capable of.

Seeing this swagger attempted to be subdued is pure artistry. Something is building on “Notice Me.” Shadows are been risen from, and Dobson’s voice lifts a curtain on a more pleasant landscape. For someone who gave up a job working with James Mercer, she sure can be self-deprecating though. “I’ll be your mirror so you know who to blame” is not expected lyrically, but the track is lightly effervescent in spite of admitting that letdowns are inevitable. This all seems to be suppressed and undone by the humid pavement of the sweltering summer song “Wide Awake.” Plodding trails of tempo anchored by Peter Mansen’s drums play right into her hands as the self-doubt turns into a cat and mouse flirtation. And the building tension that grows with each electrical current firing between two beings? Positively seductive.

We think it needs to be stated that Elliot Jackson’s synth work is something that deserves its fair share of notice. The krautrock influence found on “Creatures of Comfort” is like hearing an organ being played from a city in a cloud. You’ll find yourself at an altar call for the First Church of Electronica here. Even on a more restrained track like “Always Waiting” allows drops of electronic austereness to land succinctly within the movements of the song. Coupled with the self-inflicted wounds found within Dobson’s lyrics, you can’t tell if the words guide the synth or vice versa.

One of the shorter tracks on the album, “Great Light,” bobs its head up and down from a murky ground. Feet are dragged towards a light at the end of a tunnel only to remember the realization that a tether keeps them from escaping this solitude. Luckily, “See These Eyes” shakes itself free, and what is the first order of business? Demanding a house party. There is no doubt about the dance pop nature of the track, and Garret Gue’s bass makes sure you never get out of line. This is also the track where something very distinctive stands out on the album – lyrical density. What we mean by that is a lot of electro-centric outfits tend to slant their output towards music heavy, which is great. But Jessica Dobson is fearlessly emotive, finding the right balance between singer and sound.

Another area where the songwriter excels in is having a mix of strength and wherewithal to be deeply personal and honest. As she waits for the inevitable to come on “Body on the Tracks,” you find this in a clearly saddened, but overtly truthful, form. At times you have to wonder how much is based on experience. Once the track ends a bit boisterously, a sleepiness sets in. “New Day” allows the album to close with an intensive focus on piano and voice. The starkness of it all is befitting of so much self-awareness.

The album, poised to be one of the best this month, is out now. Head over to Deep Sea Diver’s bandcamp page to pick it up. Joey Smith