Release Date: Apr 7, 2015
Record label: XL
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
William Doyle’s first album as East India Youth was a pretty curious thing. It just wouldn’t sit still, jumping from Berlin-era Bowie to brutal electronics to dance music to Looking for Someone, the cascading harmonies of which suggested Fleet Foxes forced to abandon their instruments and make music on a laptop. By rights, Total Strife Forever should have sounded like what it ultimately was: a collection of ideas thrown together on the side by a musician whose band – Doyle and the Fourfathers, who specialised in precisely the kind of amiable-but-unremarkable indie-rock that provides the ballast on BBC 6 Music – was in the process of falling apart.
Predicting how successful debut albums will be both critically and commercially can be a tricky business. Some artists are almost picked up from the moment they come into being and are then tasked with producing a debut that lives up to the hype that comes from lists such as the BBC’s Sound Of… polls. Others, though, come from relative obscurity and have to rely on the music doing all the talking for them.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. As his 2014 debut album drew to a close, cracks began to show in East India Youth's monolithic electronica. The stark, brittle structures that had initially seemed to tower over all like city skyscrapers were now being drowned out by an increasing static. Not even Doyle's voice was impervious as he became harder to hear, adrift amidst waves of breaking electronics.
Released just a year after East India Youth's distinctive indie electronic debut, the Mercury Prize-nominated Total Strife Forever, Culture of Volume presents another blend of Eno-inspired synth compositions and thoughtful electropop songs. However, where the former was mostly instrumentals with a few songs, Culture of Volume offers the reverse for a poppier and more melodic, but equally hypnotic and well-crafted sophomore LP. While East India Youth had been essentially a solitary project for multi-instrumentalist William Doyle, he brought in Graham Sutton to mix this time, George Hider recorded Doyle's vocals, and Hannah Peel provided acoustic strings.
"Glitter Recession" was the name of the opening song on East India Youth's 2014-released debut LP, Total Strife Forever. Now, two full-length albums and an EP into his career, it seems that William Doyle, the man behind the London Docklands-themed name, was actually giving us a description of his sound. .
William Doyle isn’t the type to focus. Tracks on his Mercury Prize-nominated debut ‘Total Strife Forever’ and follow-up ‘Culture of Volume’ deliver everything with cutting exactitude, but throughout, the London producer’s navigating vast territory. On his first work - released at the start of 2014 before taking on a life of his own - praise came from his ability to find life in disparate ideas, covering all bases in a wildly varying collection.
‘Total Strife Forever’, the enthralling, Mercury-nominated debut by East India Youth combined singer-songwriter nous with glimmering electronica and flashes of neo-classical music, making it hard to predict where London-based Will Doyle was going to go next. Rather than settling on a unified feel, second album ‘Culture Of Volume’ also delights in genre-hopping, but it’s less abstract and more coherent than its predecessor. There are two straight-up pop songs (the Pet Shop Boys-like ‘Beaming White’ and ‘Turn Away’), forays into bracing techno (‘Hearts That Never’, ‘Entirety’) and ambient pieces that again show the influence of Brian Eno (‘Carousel’, ‘Montage Resolution’).
William Doyle, the English musician behind East India Youth, has cast himself as a reluctant pop star. Refining his convergence of soul-piercing lyricism and raw, underground dance-inspired instrumentals with help from The Quietus Phonographic Corporation (2013’s Hostel EP) and Stolen Recordings (2014’s Mercury Prize-nominated Total Strife Forever), Doyle’s new relationship with XL Recordings offers him the platform to measure his pop potential. Aided by the mixing talents of Graham Sutton (Jarvis Cocker, These New Puritans, British Sea Power), Doyle made sure his escalated Top 40 sensibilities didn’t transform his former experimental endeavors into a series of forgettable, Muse-inspired singles for the second East India Youth LP, Culture of Volume.
The recorded-at-home follow-up to William Doyle’s Mercury prize-nominated debut, Total Strife Forever, finds this east London-based synth auteur on the verge of going the full A-ha. While still willing to flirt with other sonic textures – from the pristine coffee-table electronica of the album’s opening and closing tracks, through the sub-Underworld clatter of Entirety, to the Muse-meets-Erasure extravagance of Carousel – it’s with the brazen 80s electropop of Beaming White that his heart seems to lie. All that’s left for him to do now is to write his own Take on Me.
William Doyle has an unassuming presence. His voice has a crystalline, choirboy quality, a projection of pure light, and on the cover of Culture of Volume, he's wearing a navy blazer with a tie clip and a tousled haircut; it could be ripped from his prep school yearbook. He performs alone, standing behind a standard setup of MacBooks, samplers and holding a bass guitar.
The culture of volume has destroyed pop as we used to know it. Where once its essential form and purpose as light entertainment and escapism would occasionally allow visionary works to burst through to a mass audience - Bowie, Laurie Anderson's 'O Superman' - now hyper-compression competes with itself in an increasingly narrow-minded mass media. Against this, it's tempting to bunker down into niches, seeking refuge in supposed countercultures.
Pretty portents of sorrow fill “Kathryn Calder,” the self-titled album by the singer who is best known as the modest team player supplying harmony vocals in the New Pornographers. Her own albums — this is the third and most transparent — reveal grander structures and a singular perspective, as she sings with tuneful equanimity about deep, unresolved, enigmatic struggles. “Like claws, the breaking waves will crawl/Never the same but they still call me by name,” she sings in “When You See My Blood,” as the music turns both foreboding and undaunted.
East India Youth - née William Doyle - gained a lot of attention with 2014’s Total Strife Forever, a record brimming with atmospheric pieces melded with racing kick drums and frenetic synthesizers. There’s some of what made that first album a hit on new album Culture of Volume, but it’s a much more theatrical affair, placing Doyle above and in front of the beat-centric electronics that were characteristic of his debut LP. A problem with releasing such an exceptional, critically acclaimed first album is that it sets certain expectations - Culture of Volume is such a different beast that, if it weren't for Doyle's trademark technical nous and distinctive vocals, you could at times be forgiven for thinking it was a different artist altogether.
Musical theatre is the only art form in which there is absolutely no discernable value. It performs the functions of emotion without actually having any, imagining that we can be tricked into having Serious Feelings by a vocal line delivered in a faux-vulnerable way, or by a series of lyrics so trite that you begin to wonder whether they are truisms rather than clichés. ‘Carousel’, the first single from East India Youth’s new album Culture Of Volume, is the sort of song that you imagine you might hear in an newly commissioned am-dram musical; the sort of thing that might be performed to a patchy audience of frustrated luvvies in a cheaply hired hall somewhere on the outskirts of London.