Album Review: East India Youth – Culture of Volume

By on Monday, 6th April 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

East India Youth Culture of Volume album coverTo my knowledge, despite the critical acclaim garnered by the East India Youth debut album ‘Total Strife Forever’ in the UK upon receiving a coveted Mercury Prize nomination last year, William Doyle’s music has largely gone unnoticed outside Britain. Brilliantly multi-faceted and electronically complex, yet entertaining and readily accessible, ‘Culture of Volume’, I assure you, is about to change all of that. Playing to a sold out London Heaven last November, Doyle made the conscious decision to go from man behind the table of electronics to man with the table of electronics who wants to be front and centre, and his current ambition of becoming a pop star, albeit armed with heavy electronic artillery as well as the microphone, is fully realised on this second effort.

For non-electronica pedants, ‘Total Strife Forever’ proved a difficult listen: comprised of mostly instrumental tracks and hinting towards the minimalism of out there Steve Reich or Philip Glass, you either got it, or you didn’t. The elegiac beauty of the lyrics in ‘Looking for Someone’ and ‘Heaven How Long’ did, however, foreshadow what Doyle’s been up to in album #2. ‘Culture of Volume’ stands as a well-paced series of songs providing a physical assault on the ears, as well as an assault on your heart. The pulsing instrumentals he’s written this time around will prove satisfying to his long-time fans and electronic lovers, but the pop sensibility is astonishing, his feelings through words and the catchy rhythms woven together into the songs he now confidently sings on.

After a beefy, vibrating instrumental journey to start the LP in ‘The Juddering’, we’re met with dark but wry wit in ‘End Result’, which seems to be Doyle telling us just how hard it was to make this album. The deadpan “The end result is not what was in mind / the end result is not what was in mind / the end result is always hard to find” and the harsh piano notes in the bridge, accompanied the apocalyptic “the end result is all there is…the end is coming soon”, give the track a shadowy feel. But the build to the beat-heavy, synthtastic ending is optimistic, leading you nicely into a song that is anything but shadowy, ‘Beaming White’. The euphoric discotheque tempo, along with Doyle’s ethereal vocals and the energetic buzz of synths, allow the song to shine bright like a diamond (sorry, Rihanna), the beacon of light at the end of the ‘End Result’ tunnel we just walked through.

The emotional heart of ‘Culture of Volume’ can be found in tracks 4 through 8, beginning with ‘Turn Away’, which is where Doyle brings synthpop into the second half of the 2010s in his own epic way. Pop songs about failed relationships are all over top 40, but they’re trite and devoid of impact. In stark contrast, one can’t help (or yes, turn away) but be drawn in by the East India Youth inner conflict of whether to walk away from a romantic history and run the risk of emotional tarnish that Doyle sings of, and so beautifully: “turn away / I never should be seen to be falling from grace / but here I am again today / with nothing on my tongue but all these reasons why I shouldn’t stay.” Already a favourite of NPR’s before East India Youth arrived in Austin last month and soon to hit a dance floor near you, ‘Hearts That Never’ is the other side of the coin to ‘Turn Away’. Its electronic effects more frenetic to match the increased BPM, the overall feel of the track is euphoric, yet it feels purposefully mesmerising, taking obsession of a lover to new heights (“and now your silhouette is firmly in my mind / eclipsing something real and not your fleeting sigh”).

From there, ‘Entirety’ continues this ride at similar BPM, hurtling towards the necessary and a sorely needed climax. The full emotions laid out for all to see in ‘Turn Away’ and ‘Hearts That Never’ have been building up to this moment where there is no room for anything else but an all-out explosion, into the kind of industrial techno Doyle himself favours on a night out. ‘Entirety’ is final, obliterating, until its last half minute, allowing a more gentle segue into the chilly but woozily comforting ‘Carousel’. Sonically a rebirth with Doyle’s placid vocals and equally calming instrumentation, it sounds much like what I expect to find playing when I arrive in Heaven (if there one) but interestingly, it’s lyrically a puzzle, as he uses the idea of a fairground ride we see as simple fun as children as a metaphor for life lived without human control.

Doyle smartly brings things back from the brink in the final third of the album. Probable future single ‘Don’t Look Backwards’ is soulful with syncopated beats but also forward-thinking and hopeful, as he closes an old book to a start a new one. The icy synths of ‘Manner of Words’ contrast nicely with its wonky waltz melody before halfway through the song, when Doyle favours going back to all instrumental, leading into final track ‘Montage Resolution’. Peppered with Oriental note progressions, the album ends on an expansive, dreamy note. Elegant, beautiful, emotional and unforgettable, ‘Culture of Volume’ pushes all the right buttons. Will Doyle, you’re ready for your close-up.

9/10

‘Culture of Volume’, the full-length follow-up to East India Youth’s 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated debut ‘Total Strife Forever’, is out today on XL Recordings. Past TGTF coverage on East India Youth, including his appearance at the Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales showcase Tuesday night at this year’s SXSW 2015 and my interview with Doyle in Austin, is this way.

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave Your Response

* Name, Email, Comment are Required

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it. If you want a track removed, email us and we'll sort it ASAP.

E-mail us  |  RSS Feed   RSS Feed  

Learn More About Us