Review: East India Youth, Total Strife Forever
Tom Spooner reviews the much-anticipated debut solo longplayer from London-based East India Youth:
When the Quietus start a record label with the sole purpose of putting out your first EP, you can feel pretty good about yourself. When writers of the calibre of John Doran start praising your work, you can allow your cheeks to flush a little with pride. When you release an album of the quality and scope of Total Strife Forever, you can allow yourself a full hop, skip and jump of delight. Congratulations William Doyle, you are that man.
What most impresses about Doyle’s East India Youth debut is its cohesion and how effortlessly it flows. It is rare to experience an album that feels like a complete entity and not because it is one dimensional either. In fact Total Strife Forever is an ambitious and diverse collection that attempts, if not always successfully, to bring together a whole range of ideas and influences.
For the most part, Doyle concerns himself with embellishing the measured tonal experiments of the neo-classical composers like Steve Reich and Philip Glass. The four ‘Total Strife’ movements that punctuate the album are where these influences are most apparent, alongside the choral swell and skittish keys of Granular Piano.
We also find on Total Strife Forever maximalist electro-pop that flits somewhere between Baths and the Pet Shop Boys like on Heaven, How Long and the single Looking For Someone. There is also a hint of the Antlers’ mournful sense of the epic on Dripping Down and even uncomplicated techno on Hinterland. The latter may lack subtlety but it serves to propel you forward, adding to the album’s considerable sense of momentum. You find yourself carried from the opening synth stabs of Glitter Recession right through to the closing movements almost without noticing. As well as being exhilarating, this forward force has the benefit of glossing over the occasional ill-advised forays and those moments when Doyle’s vocals fail to match his lofty ambitions.
The album progresses through three distinct sections: it opens with a confidently rendered soundscape that breaks apart to reveal a tumultuous eclectic midsection that resolves itself in an interstellar ascension. This ascension begins with Midnight Koto, a track that evokes the sublime ethereal and eerie floatiness captured by Brian Eno on his Apollo soundtrack. Midnight Koto merges seamlessly into the soaring Total Strife Forever III, then comes Granular Piano recalling Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi until the crackling ambience of the fourth and final Total Strife composition sees the album out. As the static settles and silence returns to the room, you are left in no doubt that Doyle has managed to pull off something rather special. Congratulations William Doyle.
Review by Tom Spooner.