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Total Strife Forever

Total Strife Forever

24 Feb 2014
4.2 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Time to issue a great debut album alert. William Doyle aka East India Youth paints with a musical palette drawn from a the widest possible range of sonic colours. His record "Total Strife Forever" (a play on words on the Foals 2010 LP) sees the London-based experimental producer, songwriter and singer, encompassing electronica, techno, shoegaze and dream pop. He does this with such panache that at time this album is breath-taking in both its scope and beauty. In terms of influences for Doyle you could pool any names from Kraftwerk, 808 State to Steve Reich and Phillip Glass.

This is an audacious outing with only four songs including vocals (although they are some of the best) and four variants on the instrumental title track. On first listens it is the German influenced "Heaven How Long" which immediately grabs you. It builds up from bubbling synthesisers to a huge house anthem where Doyle's quiet vocals and repeated line "I cannot give less than my heart" finally burst into a pulverising laptop/keyboard wig out at around 4.20 producing one of the great techno anthems this side of Chicago. Another song "Hinterland" pounds along with such energy it could power the national grid and demands the best musical equipment to pull out all its techno background wizardry. Then there is the hypnotic arpeggiated synths of opener 'Glitter Recession" jammed packed with captivating melody and force. The quieter moments in the album come in the quartet of title tracks which are all ambient walls of sound owing as much to the modern classical composers mentioned above as newer dance forms. They pay repeated listens not least Total Strife III which is a thing of wonder and sounds like Doyle has somehow smuggled in an orchestra.
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Whilst we haven't even seen 1/12 of what 2014 has to offer when I write this, I would be very surprised if this does not make my top 10 in the year end list. Heck, if it didn't then we would have had one of the best musical years in living memory!

There are all kinds of influences at play here. Structurally the album reminds me of Bowie and Eno's late 70's work with it's mix of ambient and poppier tracks, but I can also hear flavours of Kraftwerk in there. This certainly isn't a 70's album though; it feels very much like an album that could only exist in the last few years.

I don't usually do a track by track, but this warrants it.

'Glitter Recession' is a slow building opener which reaches an exciting, bubbling electronic climax.

'Total Strife Forever I' feels like a Kraftwerk melody played on modern instruments and washed with glittery waves of sound.

'Dripping Down' is the first 'song' on the record and uses complex clattering beats and sampled vocals to create a fantastic sense of momentum.

'Hinterland' is a cold sonic landscape electrified with what can only be described as an assault of acid house style percussion. This is a moment of ruthless energy.

'Heaven, How Long' begins with a warm, exuberant wall of synths which slowly builds under Doyle's emotive vocals until it explodes in an exhilarating climax. It is a rare thing that a song can

'Total Strife Forever II' sounds like it came straight off Eno's 'Another Green World', in the best way possible. It is a short, simple synth melody which somehow conjures a wave of emotion much greater than the sum of its parts.
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This is a fantastic album. It covers a whole load of musical styles, but somehow manages to hold together as a coherent piece of work.

He sings on some of the songs, his voice, pure and true, almost like a choirboy's. Dripping Down was the track that Uncut chose for its compilation. Oddly, it's the song I like least and, if it was the only one I'd heard, would not have bought the album. Luckily, I already had, having heard a different track in my local cd store. Looking for Someone is a simple, but beautiful tune. Heaven, How Long is magnificent, with its ambiguous lyrics and increasingly frenetic beat.

Most of the tracks, though, are instrumentals. Some, like Glitter Recession and the soaring Hinterland, are fast, pounding and melodic. Impossible to keep still to! Others are more reflective, electronica-based sounds that are less noodly than they might seem on first listening. Total Strife Forever parts I-IV are fascinating journeys into William Doyle's fertile imagination. This is weird, complex music. I don't know what his influences are, but I can hear Arvo Part and Ligeti as much as Booka Shade and Fuck Buttons.

I really recommend this album. And if you get a chance to see him live, do so. Doyle goes for it like few others, singing, accompanying himself on keyboards, bass guitar, sweat pouring from him as he tackles the songs head on. 'There is something clinical about me,' he sings at one point. And perhaps that's true. But what you get both from his exhilarating live set, and from this wonderful album, is the sense that you're listening to someone who is utterly passionate about his music.
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