Diät‘s debut album Positive Energy sounded like a chilly relic from post-punk’s past. The Berlin-based band, most of whom are Australian, conjured the bleak spirits of vintage Factory Records, Killing Joke at their most apocalyptic and an underlying aggression reminiscent of vintage anarchopunk. The band recorded the album in the dead of winter, and it sounded like it was unearthed from some eerie, underground Cold War bunker. Even the muted two-tone photocopied image of the cover looked like something hand pasted outside of SO36 in 1981.
That, of course, is all a matter of interpretation. Positive Energy was released in 2015 and recorded the prior winter, it’s simply that Diät’s aesthetic is one of old-school gloom as fed through the filters of early ’80s Manchester and late-’70s Berlin. Yet the band’s songwriting and application of that gloom is what sets them apart from so much of what passes for “post-punk revival” today. Not unlike their labelmates Total Control, Diät don’t employ a uniform technique—no Unknown Pleasures with modern production values, no darkwave presets locked in for the duration—to their gothic punk sound. They’ll take on a driving fuzz punk approach, a generous wash of chorus pedal or a pulsing minimal synth backdrop, but they don’t deal in aesthetic fetishization. Certain fragments may evoke a certain influence here or there, but the complete picture is one only Dïat could create.
“We,” the outstanding opener to the band’s second album Positive Disintegration, shows those aesthetics and ideas have expanded and stretched. A haunted post-punk dirge revolving around a spoken-word delivery and an ominously pulsing bassline, “We” feels at once contemporary and out of time, a communiqué from a cold landscape at once distant yet familiar and delivered to a present day that’s carried on the hopelessness of decades past. The sound, however, is emblematic of the growth the band’s undergone in the past four years. They don’t tour relentlessly, their press is sporadic at best, and there aren’t many photos of the band in existence, but when they emerge from cold storage with eight remarkable tracks like those on Positive Disintegration, they offer a reminder of how incredible post-punk can still sound more than 40 years after the fact. And how contemporary it can feel in a society whose structures and safety nets seem ever closer to collapse.
Throughout Positive Disintegration, Diät skate from aggressive to mournful, energized to druggy and spacious. A hyper-charged punk burner like “Foreign Policy” speaks to the band’s supposed origins as a Crisis cover band. The buzzing synth tones on “What’s It Got To Do With Me?” underscore a nihilistic dance anthem wherein the song’s title refrain echoes a kind of problematic public indifference to anything and everything. “Disintegrate” is an oozing post-industrial dirge, a synth piercing like a drill beneath melodic guitar riffs, and closer “Opfer” stomping and galloping like early ’80s Cure at their angriest and most feral.
Much of the lyrics are buried low enough in the mix that it’s difficult to make out more than a few phrases here or there, but what rises above the thrum (“politicians...”, “genocide and war…“, “social debris“) often feels like a glimpse of the chaos outside. As a press release for the album ponders, “It just feels like life is getting away from you, ya know?” Diät aren’t interested in manufacturing joy, but there’s more than enough catharsis behind their agitated post-punk dirges to go around. Much like the post-punk bands of the ’70s and ’80s that they’ve sometimes been compared to, Diät reflect the fucked-up world that created them. They don’t shy away from the darkness, though. Few bands today have proven so adept at manipulating it into something so vital.