The very first time I set eyes on William Doyle, better known to search engines and online retailers alike as the man beyond the East India Youth moniker, he nervously emerged before an ensemble of no more than six people. The white of his sclera remarkably visible beneath the deep purples of XOYO, even from the initially, overly reverberant bass notes and quivering vocal tones of a song I can no longer recall, it became unmistakably apparent that British electronic music was on the verge of discovering its latest in a long line of ostensible saviours. Supported unrelentingly by the Quietus, and as yet the one solitary release on John Doran’s ‘Phonographic Corporation, you could instantly see why quite so much belief and enthusiasm had been injected into this particular endeavour. For Doyle has been sitting on the songs to comprise Total Strife Forever for some time already, and to hear them recorded so richly, and here collected in full is hugely fulfilling in itself.
First, however, that album title: its likeness to that of Foals’ sophomore full-length, Total Life Forever, could have landed Doyle in waters of varying warm temperatures, did it not fit this perfectly with the anxious, tentative, and above all frictional feel Total Strife Forever strives to encapsulate. In short, this is an album capable of speaking to Britain’s disenchanted youth, articulated by one of its own kind. And Doyle is doubtless more erudite than most. Nonetheless, whereas his vocals proved unmistakably focal however many months ago beneath EC2 paving stone and manhole cover, Total Strife Forever is instead, at least for the most part, more an exhibition of Doyle’s superlative dexterity as a producer first and foremost. Yes, his seraphic voice lends a certain grandeur to the epiphanic Heaven, How Long, the song divine as the day Doran et al. first put this doe-eyed charmer out into the world wide web. Sure, a further few to have likely haunted those aforesaid six ever since Doyle supported Darkstar way back when, Dripping Down and Looking For Someone, benefit similarly from their author’s spectacularly candid singing style, as the latter hears the heart-on-sleeve lyrics, “Looking for someone, looking for someone/ And I know that you’re the one” interpolated in dense billows of propulsive synth and nitty static. “Once around, and now you’re gone” Doyle concludes post-crescendo, although in doing so, sounds as though he should be about for quite some while yet. Dripping Down, meanwhile, has its forlorn raconteur dribbling the line, “Find new love, find new love/ Dripping down your soul” repeatedly, as gospel backing vox ooze lavishly, the scene that’s set impactive as any which fated wedding ceremony. There’s as much emotion to his every word as there is invention to every track’s intricate backing, although it’s arguably when his songs are stripped of these that East India Youth sounds to have really matured from that more musical perspective.
In opener Glitter Recession, simple arpeggi flutter and whir restively around dense and dank bass stabs, only to soon grow terse and thorny, before Doyle blunts said barbs to smear a quite scintillating atmosphere over the song’s lattermost moments. Think Tarot Sport dosed up on Zydol, and you’ve a vague idea. Less foggy notion and more fuzzy nightclub flare, Hinterland positively thirsts for strobe lighting like a bugged-out plastic person does water, whilst Midnight Koto, mellow and so too magnificently Asiatic, gives Japan enthusiast Gold Panda a good run for his Yen in the meditative ambient stakes. The choppy Song For A Granular Piano, replete with vocals once more, then has Derwin Dicker comparisons traded in for Tim Hecker inspiration, the composition rumbling and gurgling along until a crystalline burst dawns midway through. Doyle’s penchant for the outwardly operatic again resurfaces, twinkling spectral tinkering rippling luxuriously as the piece at last unravels. Yet if this is William playing into relatively accessible, aesthetically pleasing pianistic tropes, then the album’s quadruple title track may be deemed a fragmented exercise in outright esotericism: its first part resembles a fatal cardiac judder shuddering across Factory Floor; its second a vanguardist clipping from Field of Reeds; its third a warbling sci-fi tremor, with its fourth and final instalment a taxing four-plus minutes of indistinct, again gently intergalactic drone, with auxiliary and largely atonal crackle and hiss affixed for added impact. But in Total Strife Forever, Doyle has demonstrated a sense of invention to rival the likes of Graham Bell and Berners-Lee. Indeed, he’ll croon: “There’s something clinical about me” during Heaven, How Long, and I couldn’t now feel more inclined to agree with him.
Released: January 13th, 2014 [Stolen Recordings]