The debut LP of Los Angeles duo DIN (not to be confused with the 90s Canadian EBM project of the same name) occupies an interesting space in the broader electronic music landscape. While the Josie and Greg Vand’s work is defined by deep grooves and movement, it never really approaches those ideas in the same way as Greg’s work in High-Functioning Flesh. Rather Real Dirt makes songs that hypnotically turn in wide psychedelic circles, just this side of hazy and atmospheric but with a real tangibility and weight.
The album’s most notable style is one established early on “Oil”: a funky and round synth bassline is punctuated by clinky percussion and peals of delayed and reverbed guitar while Josie recites the lyrics in a deadpan monotone. The song doesn’t vary much throughout, which gives it almost a narcotic effect, bypassing a lot of the conscious ways we process music to tap into our base response to pattern and rhythm. They replicate that feel to a tee numerous times over, on “Be In the Light” where pitched cowbells make up the song’s ever so slight climax, and the sparser “Dream Your Way” that plays like the previously noted tracks at halftime.
There is some variation in the album’s nine tracks though, especially when the duo let the well-defined edges of their carefully arranged songs blur a bit. “Your Right Hand” turns the fog machine up, allowing the song’s vocals and far-off guitar accompaniment to wander a bit, creating tension as the rapidly cycling synthline pushes things forward to their conclusion. DIN even forego consistent rhythm entirely on atmospheric closer “AM” and “Radiating”, where a thudding kick drum falls in a way that constantly seems off-axis, always landing just to the left of where your ear expects it to.
Real Dirt really does have a pleasingly unique feel to it. Not quite smooth enough to fit in with the minimal synth crowd and just a bit too slippery and nebulous for post-punk, it invokes those genres while still feeling like a weirdo permutation of its own. The Vands use foggy atmospherics with just the right amount of dusky colour to enliven them, helping the LP to dig in in subtle ways, oscillating steadily from beginning to end.