Release Date: Jan 13, 2014
Record label: Stolen
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
Total Strife Forever, the first LP by Bournemouth born sonic experimentalist William Doyle who records under the evocative name of East India Youth, is the sort of debut album that could only really be made in the polymorphous, wildly creative musical times in which we now inhabit. Doyle is something of an auteur and thinks nothing of combining different musical forms and styles and warping them into something quite unique. In bygone decades, the music of East India Youth would be neatly boxed away and filed under a category of experimental or ambient electronica or, even worse, derided as unlistenable self-indulgence.
Ahead of this year's Mercury prize, DiS in partnership with Naim Audio's new wireless music system, mu-so, will help you GoDeeper into 2014's nominated albums. Today, we would like to turn your attention to East India Youth. This review originally appeared on DiS at the start of January 2014, to coincide with the records release. You can read our recent chat with EIY aka William Doyle amongst coverage of all of this year's nominees on our Mercury Prize 2014 mini-site.
William Doyle first came to attention in the U.K. as the frontman of a Britpop revivalist band called Doyle and the Fourfathers (oddly, this name was retained even when the band was reduced to a trio). While their single "Welcome to Austerity" received some airplay, the band never seemed destined to last; their sound too reminiscent of one of those bands that once had a top-75 "hit" in the U.K.
On William Doyle’s debut record as East India Youth, he brings traditional songwriting craft and singing learned while fronting Doyle & The Fourfathers, a bookish indie group that were hotly tipped, then failed. Read interviews with Doyle and the implication is that he lost faith in guitars, and the ability to adequately express himself through rock music. Sounds composed alone on computers and gadgets became more interesting to him, and he looked particularly to Brian Eno to help understand how to bring emotion to music created on the cold interface of a laptop keyboard.
East India Youth's William Doyle is an artist of two halves. On the one hand he's an emotional electronic songsmith: think a James Blake you don't want to grab by the scruff of the neck and pack off to national service. On the other, he's an inventive composer who can turn his hand to Harold Buddesque soundscapes one minute (Total Strife Forever I-IV) and surprisingly banging techno such as Hinterland the next.
Until last year, William Doyle was the lynchpin of top pop tips Doyle & The Fourfathers. The dissolution of that band saw him focus on the electro material he’d been stashing away over the previous few years; that material became Total Strife Forever, an album initially leaked online to universal acclaim and now given the full release it deserves. It feels as though these songs’ initial side-project status gave Doyle the freedom to explore his muse however he saw fit.
Seeing William Doyle live you always got the impression he had more ideas than he knew what to do with, and occasionally, those ideas seemed to jar. The bits of pounding electronica accompanied by him attempting to dismantle the table carrying his laptop with his bare hands, and the bits where he sounded a little like James Blake with a pulse, didn’t always gel.But ‘Total Strife Forever’ completely does. It flows brilliantly, darting between epic apocalyptic soundscapes, delicately melodic electronic pop songs and to driftingly ambient sketches while sounding entirely at one with itself.
The biggest beneficiary of the critical rush to discover 2014’s first great record, William Doyle is currently riding high on the wave of acclaim generated by his debut offering as East India Youth. Total Strife Forever, unbelievably a pun based on the Foals’ album Total Life Forever, is a mixed bag in every sense. A near endless stream of arpeggiated synths provides the foundation for Doyle to showcase his fondness for ambient electronic soundscapes, shoegaze, techno, krautrock, and even good old-fashioned synth-pop.
Total Strife Forever, the debut album from William Doyle's East India Youth moniker, is a collection of familiar sounds and musical tropes delivered in a manner that can only be described as fearless. Drawing comparisons to Autre Ne Veut in its most conservative moments, the 11 tracks that make up Total Strife Forever seemingly waver between structural deconstruction, sonic restraint and wild-eyed genre-bending. With Doyle's cascading synthlines and heartbeat drum cycles being the album's only constants, Total Strife Forever sways from classic motorik instrumentals to insular electro-ballads enforced by William's Hot Chip-aping vocals.
The album's title is a pun on Foals' Total Life Forever; the moniker comes from the London dockside locale William Doyle was living in when he crafted this choppy but assured electronic debut. Three strands coexist here. Doyle offers up shimmering passages of systems-indebted music, like opener Glitter Recession; these give way to stylishly observed club-facing workouts like Hinterland.
“Sonic architect” William Doyle, a London-via-Bournemouth twenty-something who’s better known by his East India Youth sobriquet, has confounded critics and onlookers over the past year or so since his debut EP, Hostel. Not in a bad way – far from it (people are generally supportive of his endeavours) – but his aural alchemy transcends a multitude of genres, combining disparate styles like ambient drone, synthpop, acid, goth-house and krautrock. It’s the sort of music that wouldn’t be amiss amongst the Arbutus roster – alien, but addictive, electronic carnage.
Viewed in a MIDI software sequencer, the rectangular blocks that represent programmed notes always look so clunky and graceless compared to the music they encode. Essentially instructions to the instruments the sequencer is plugged into, their squared-off look seems to represent everything naysayers might once have had you believe about digital music: cold and calculated, overworked, lacking in spontaneity, flexibility and the human touch. In 2014, of course, those notions now seem as quaint and outdated as the bleep-screech-whirr of a 56k modem connection.
Delivering on the promise of last year’s EP, William Doyle’s debut LP is a real gem, an accessible but poised brace of soaring songs full of uncomplicated beauty and as precociously wise as they are fresh-faced. Anchored on the 22-year old’s not-unconsiderable pop nous and ear for melody, and buoyed by his way with electronic styles both old and contemporary, Total Strife Forever is, if icily refined, also deeply human, the listener experience like paying witness to a young man’s wonderstruck coming-of-age. What with Doyle’s angelic vocals, and the pervading tone of ethereality, Total Strife Forever had the potential to be a mite precious.