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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”).

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcMnFLnYJuo[/youtube]

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.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW3NFKJj5ts[/youtube]

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.

 

SXSW 2015: Saturday in Austin with familiar Brits, Scandinavians and Aussies – 21st March 2015

 
By on Thursday, 2nd April 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

Saturday in Austin for SXSW 2015 was another strangely miserable day weather wise. With rain intermittent for most of the day until the evening hours, at least it wasn’t chucking it down like it was on Friday. Still, with a grey sky, I wondered if the bad weather would keep crowds away on the last day of the big dance. When nighttime came, it was became clear from the long queues outside many of the venues – including Latitude 30, where your humble editor found herself stuck in the wristband queue for over 2 hours, including some time spent chatting with Kate Tempest and her band in said queue – that the droves had come out for one last hurrah.

Representing in my very red England jacket, my Saturday began seemingly inauspiciously. Stood in a queue, holding a brolly and trying in vain to look cool while waiting for doors to a venue to open isn’t really my idea of a great time. But this was all to get into the Brooklyn Vegan day party, as the New York culture Web site had a full line-up for both the indoor and outdoor stages at Red 7, including the third and final appearance of Mew. I wasn’t there for the Danes, however.

After the cancellation of an entire electronic showcase at Container Bar due to safety concerns about possible electrocution of the bands during the height of Friday afternoon’s rainstorms, I made it to East India Youth‘s (Will Doyle) last performance in Austin. This performance was certainly different than Huw Stephen’s curated night Tuesday at Latitude 30 for Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales; for one, my guess was the audience had never heard of him, though I was pleased to see his performance quickly won them over. It may have been only noon on a Saturday, but just like Tuesday night at 9 PM, Doyle gave it his all, throwing his whole body into the performance and he alternated between synth, sequencers, Macbook and last but not least, bass guitar. ‘Hinterland’, from his 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated debut album on Stolen Recordings ‘Total Strife Forever’, went down particularly well, punters’ heads bopping and nodding in approval of the huge beats and the sweaty, vigorous way they were delivered to us.

East India Youth at Brooklyn Vegan Saturday SXSW 2015

‘Turn Away’, the second cut to be revealed in February from ‘Culture of Volume’, was recently described by BBC 6music presenter Stuart Maconie as sounding like “an electronic madrigal”, and I fully agree. It’s a very emotional piece that I’ll discuss more in my album review coming soon on TGTF, so I’ll just say for now that the track is solid evidence to silence the naysayers that say electronica is cold and devoid of feeling. It’s also nice to see Doyle comfortable as a singer, nearly front and centre if you forget the table being there, as he emotes on a song like ‘Looking for Someone’, written back in the day when he was more known for being that guy in a suit behind the table being held up by apple juice cartons and gaffa tape.

From East India Youth, I went in search for another Youth – Lust for Youth, the project of Swede Hannes Norrvide, now based in Denmark. The lack of decent lighting in an otherwise very red Mohawk indoor stage made for a impossible photography situation to begin with. Then there was the stifling crowd situation: from what I understand having talked to some punters down the front, people had arrived early and were staking out spots for hardcore Pittsburgh act Code Orange, who would not be on stage for another 3 hours. Lust for Youth is an electropop band, so as can probably imagine, hardcore fans on the whole aren’t exactly their core audience. Couple that with overbearing bass in the mix obscuring Norrvide’s vocals – or at least making his voice sound more robotic than I recalled from their Sacred Bones Records album ‘International’ released last year – led to a less than compelling set. Maybe I just picked the wrong venue to see them at.

The People the Poet at British Music Embassy Saturday SXSW 2015

Sound was much better, as it always is, when I returned to Latitude 30 for the final British Music Embassy afternoon showcase of SXSW 2015, opened by Welsh hopefuls and now buzzed about band The People the Poet. Frontman Leon Stanford was never showing any sign of anxiety about playing for an international crowd on Tuesday night, but now he was entirely in his element, talking to us from the stage like we were old friends, speaking about his band’s experiences in Austin with fondness as if a seasoned SXSW veteran. Having done a live session with Dermot O’Leary for his Radio 2 programme earlier in the week, one hopes that their music will spread far and wide off the back of their two exemplary performances at the British Music Embassy.

Up next and back to back were two Scottish bands, United Fruit and Holy Esque Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay inside Latitude 30 for United Fruit, as I nipped outside for my interview with Tyla Campbell and Pete Mills of The People The Poet that had been delayed for days. Of what I did hear of them, it was loud and the band were lively. When I returned for Holy Esque, they were in the midst of laying down their bombastic, synth laden guitar rock. Oddly, I liked them better on the recordings I’d heard previously than live. It seemed louder and muddier in person. I wondered, since it was Saturday, if the staff at Latitude 30 had just cranked up all the knobs to 11? Would have made sense if it were true.

After Latitude 30 and running around town to conduct two interviews (one with Ryan of Rival Consoles, the other with Niall of Only Real), I treated myself to a taxi ride to take me to the last show I would cover at SXSW 2015. Melbourne’s Demi Louise, who I had become friendly with on Instagram, was playing her last gig in Austin for the week, an acoustic one, at the atrium stage of the Hyatt Regency south of the river. This was a special treat for me, as I have always loved the hotel shows I’ve managed to find and cover during SXSW, and this one was no exception.

Wearing a large-brimmed Stetson, she appeared onstage certainly dressed the part for Texas. Although her set was much too short, she played a nice smattering of tunes that showcased her songwriting ability, from describing the emotional pain of heartbreak that all of us, young and old, experience, to the more personal journey she’s gone on watching both of her grandfathers suffer from dementia in the song ‘Ruins’.

Demi Louise Saturday SXSW 2015

It was lovely to finally see her perform and also chat with her after her set, as it brought everything round full circle to what I feel is the most important part of TGTF’s work at a festival like SXSW: to help spread the music of artists we have come to know and love, especially for those who are just starting out and/or who aren’t well known. Yet. As long as I’ve got the passion within me, I’ll continue doing this for years to come, and I thank you for joining me for the ride, whether it takes us to Austin, Brighton, Sydney, and anywhere in between. SXSW 2015, that’s a wrap!

 

SXSW 2015: Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales showcase at Latitude 30 (Part 1) – 17th March 2015

 
By on Thursday, 26th March 2015 at 2:00 pm
 

This year, we saw a shift in showcase programming at Latitude 30 on San Jacinto Boulevard, the home of the British Music Embassy during SXSW. The conspicuous absence of a fully coordinated Showcasing Scotland night that had been put on for many years in the past and seemed to always be a given meant that there was a void ready for the taking, and at SXSW 2015, Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales and with the kind auspices of Welsh BBC radio presenters Huw Stephens and Bethan Elfyn stepped in to take over Latitude 30 on Tuesday night, lining up an eclectic bill to usher in this year’s festival with a bang.

Traditionally, there are much fewer showcases on offer on the Tuesday night of SXSW, which basically means that wherever you go Tuesday night, you should expect to queue and expect part of your evening will be spent groaning and swearing, stood outside your preferred venue of choice, unable to get inside. I am quick to point out this phenomenon happens not just to mere mortals such as ourselves, but even the man and friend of mine Steve Lamacq had trouble getting into Latitude 30 to see one of the Welsh acts he himself championed on BBC Radio. So now you know…

Before you ask, “just how many Welsh bands were there at SXSW 2015?”, I also should note that only half of the acts (three out of the six; four out of seven if you include the act who played the invite-only reception party) who played on the Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales bill are actually Welsh, though the choices of Welsh acts for this evening were perfect in my book, either for their potential or having already made it in the States. In my interview with Will Doyle, aka East India Youth, the day after the show, he explained despite his non-Welshness, his addition to the bill had more to do with Huw Stephens’ support of his music, and I suspect the inclusion of Londoner Kate Tempest and her sociopolitical rhetoric and Manchester electropop musician and producer Shura had similar backstories.

Paper Aeroplanes at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

During the drinks reception, Richard Llewellyn and Sarah Howells of Paper Aeroplanes from West Wales provided a gentle easing into the evening with their brand of alt-folk. As many of you know, the singer/songwriter genre isn’t my favourite, so I really couldn’t tell you if they sound unique or not, but they were pleasant enough as background music to the inevitable industry conversations that take place in venues at SXSW.

Things, however, were about to go up to 11 with the next band. The People The Poet, introduced by Huw Stephens as being from the same town as Tom Jones (Pontypridd, in South Wales), were about to give anyone who the previous band might have put into a near stupor (sorry, that would be me) a swift kick up the arse. The prior impression I had that The People The Poet might be and sound like a precious folk band was quickly dismissed as the group barrelled ahead with their set. (Read my Bands to Watch ahead of SXSW 2015 here.)

The People the Poet at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

If frontman Leon Stanford had any anxiety playing to a crowd of strangers in America, he didn’t show it. He was dressed like probably what most people think is typical Texan, with a large, wide-brimmed hat and a cowboy-style shirt that I’m sure he purchased on their travels here. His voice sounds like the youth of a young, yet still satisfyingly husky Caleb Followill (‘Molly Drove Me Away’) crossed with the wisdom of classic Joe Cocker (‘People’), with the band’s loud yet richly detailed instrumentation channeling the anthemic, feel good spunk of Bruce Springsteen (‘Heart of a Lion’) and even the blues / hard rock variant patented by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Considering that all the band are in their early 20s and weren’t actually alive when most of those people were in their heyday, creating such a sound is no mean feat. To play SXSW at such a young age and to make such an impression on people who had never heard of you and who leave and go around Austin telling everyone about you is a pretty big deal indeed. Mark my words, keep an eye on this band, or you’ll be left behind.

East India Youth provided a much needed injection of electronica early on in the proceedings. While Will Doyle’s appearance early in the night may have seemed a strange choice to those who aren’t into electronic music, my interview with him and indeed, the reveal of ‘Carousel’ in early February from upcoming album ‘Culture of Volume’ out the 6th of April on XL Recordings indicates him shifting towards a more pop-orientated sound that agreed with many of the artists on this bill. As an electronic fan myself, I personally didn’t need proof of his musical talent, but Doyle also played bass on stage, which he played with the same perspiration-inducing freneticism as when he attacked the synth, sequencers and drum pads assembled as part of his complicated rig onstage.

East India Youth at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

The compelling ‘Hearts That Never’, which premiered on stateside on American public radio system NPR the week before SXSW, also demonstrates his conscious decision to head in a dance direction, which I reckon will make his new material even more accessible to the masses. ‘Looking for Someone’, a sweeping cut from Doyle’s 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated debut album on Stolen Recordings, ‘Total Strife Forever’, has a slower tempo but serves a nice reminder how human electronic music can be, in the right person’s hands. I’m really looking forward to hearing his new album.

East India Youth at SXSW 2015, Music Wales

 

SXSW 2015 Interview: East India Youth

 
By on Wednesday, 25th March 2015 at 11:00 am
 

I think it’s safe to say that East India Youth, better known to his mum as London-based electronic musician and bassist Will Doyle, is well-known among music fans in Britain: his debut album under the moniker released on Stolen Recordings released at the start of last year, ‘Total Strife Forever’, earned him a coveted 2014 Mercury Prize nomination, which even without winning the gong he says gave the LP a second life after its initial release. Here in America though, he’s just beginning (hence the Bands to Watch I wrote on him in January to talk him up before he arrived in Texas) a major push in our country this spring with his upcoming album ‘Culture of Volume’, which will be released on Beggars Group’s XL Recordings the first full week of April in both the UK and U.S. and will be accompanied stateside by a reasonably long North American tour kicking off at the end of April.

Will’s first visit to Austin, Texas, for SXSW 2015 last week included a plethora of gigs at venues of varying size, playing to audiences of varying numbers and claustrophobia: Saturday saw him play the Indian Roller bar south of the city owned by a friend, while Thursday afternoon saw him playing a mental set for Under the Radar magazine just prior to the elusive Mew and Of Montreal at the 299-capacity Flamingo Lounge (we looked this number up during our interview). Tuesday night is traditionally always a packed house at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, as Tuesday night has the least number of showcases on offer and it is the obvious place for both industry and fans to congregate on the first night. Will was second up on the bill for the Cerdd Cymru: Music Wales night curated by Radio 1’s Huw Stephens though confusingly, neither he nor Kate Tempest or Shura are Welsh (they are all English). It did however start to make more sense when I got to chat with him Wednesday afternoon and he explained that it was Huw who sponsored his Mercury Prize nomination, bringing things round full circle rather nicely.

During this interview, I asked Will about the new album, how it was approached differently than the award-nominated debut and the pains that went into making it, and he told me about how he’d been pleasantly surprised by SXSW so far and of his love for his recent tourmates Factory Floor, who gave him a new appreciation for dance music in the live setting. This was far and away one of my most pleasant interviews in recent memory – thoughtful interviewees are always the best! – and many thanks to Will for answering my many questions.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Video of the Moment #1736: East India Youth

 
By on Thursday, 5th February 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

William Doyle, aka East India Youth, has announced his second album ‘Culture of Volume’ will be released on the 6th of April on XL Recordings. The first track to be unveiled from the new effort is in the form of over 6 minutes of ethereal goodness in ‘Carousel’. I’m kind of expecting a figure skater to use this for a backing track, as the icy instrumentation strikes a nice balance with Doyle’s warm vocals. Have a listen to and watch the promo video for the song below.

Catch East India Youth at SXSW 2015; for an introduction to Doyle’s solo electronic work, read my SXSW flavoured Bands to Watch piece I wrote on him last month.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #324: East India Youth

 
By on Monday, 12th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

The UK music scene is littered with bands and artists chipping away at the coalface of rock, essentially unwavering at the kind of music they believe is their strength, putting in the hard work of songwriting and gigging. While this approach does eventually pay off for some, it seems for most fledging bands, they’ll not had the luck to be discovered by an A&R bod who just happens to stumble into the pub where they’ve set up to play for the evening. So they continue on as they were. Yet every now and again, you hear a success story in which an artist realised he was going about it all wrong, was able to switch gears and head in an entirely different direction that ultimately paid off.

William Doyle, who now goes by the stage name East India Youth, has such a tale that led to his debut album ‘Total Strife Forever’ to be nominated for the 2014 Mercury Prize. There can’t be much higher praise for a release I have to assume is a friendly poke at Foals‘ similarly titled LP ‘Total Life Forever’, which was also up for a Mercury gong 4 years prior. But the Bournemouth artist’s career in music didn’t start with the electronic music he’s now known for. Doyle previously fronted Doyle and the Fourfathers, a Smiths-esque indie band from Southampton who were championed early on by BBC 6music presenter Marc Riley.

Though the band seemed poised on the edge of breaking into the mainstream, Doyle himself found himself disillusioned by the touring and “playing with hundreds of Oasis-y, laddy, pubby rock bands”. Somewhere along the way, electronica and ambient sounds proved to be Doyle’s saviour, and Doyle re-emerged under the moniker East India Youth, christened after the East India Docks area in east London where he laid his head during his songwriting days for ‘Total Strife Forever’. It was John Doran, founder of The Quietus, who decided to take a chance on Doyle’s new venture, releasing his ‘Hostel’ EP as the Quietus Phonographic Corporation’s first ever issue.

Judging from the kind of attention East India Youth has garnered since the Mercury nom of Doyle’s debut album with the project, Doran had incredible foresight. From the iciness of opening instrumental track ‘Glitter Recession’ to the remarkably soothing vocals of LP standout ‘Heaven, How Long’, from the dancey abandonment of ‘Dripping Down’ and the freneticism of ‘Hinterland’ to the unearthly, quasi-religious tones of ‘Songs for a Granular Piano’, ‘Total Strife Forever’ is a richly textured effort. How Doyle will pull off the many facets of his acclaimed debut in Austin in March at SXSW 2015 remains to be seen but I, for one, am quite interested to see how he’s received.

 
 
 

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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 was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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