If there’s one feeling I have about Adam Marshall, it’s that he really doesn’t like doing the same thing everyone else is doing. Or perhaps he just gets bored easily. Whichever the case, nearly every release on his New Kanada label seems different from the last. And when viewed through a scene-wide lens, they’re always a little unusual, without being overly weird, abstract, or lacking in dance-floor appeal. The imprint’s latest comes courtesy of DIVA, a new project devoted to the spirit of Jocelyn Brown, Lolleatta Holloway, and other such vocalists. In truth, however, it’s hard to make this connection without the assistance of the press material. Taking a free-form, analog-sounding approach to composition, all three cuts on Paris Stabbing are reminiscent of another New Kanada signing, Basic Soul Unit, albeit with slightly harsher synth work.
The title track, for instance, features the same jangly percussion and flowing melodies that BSU has made his own in recent years. Similarly, the thick, pillowy kicks and tightly-strung Arps of “But I’ve Never…” could be lifted from the same canon. The diva aspect of the equation lurks behind these not-insignificant foundations; a windy background howl rather than an overbearing focal point. Combined, the music and vocals have an effective rawness to them. In “Paris Stabbing,” the main synth line is undeniably caustic, but carried by the vocals and fat, plucky bass, it manages to uplift rather than irritate. “But I’ve Never…,” meanwhile, is filled with harsh sirens, but somehow makes them sound wholly necessary. It’s no easy feat, splicing in such ugly elements and really making them work. Whoever DIVA may be, he or she is an adept composer indeed, and another credit to New Kanada’s slightly off-center outlook.