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This review is from: Total Strife Forever (Audio CD)
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.
'Looking For Someone' is perhaps the most conventional track here and holds some of the record's only singalong moments, but even this morphs and evolves throughout. The vocal introduction is just wonderful.
'Midnight Koto' recalls Bowie's 'Moss Garden'; it is one of the simpler tracks on here which makes it a beautiful rest after the more breathtaking material which comes before it. The track builds a breezy ambient soundscape over which a succession of high pitch notes plays.
'Total Strife Forever III' is perhaps the 'biggest' ambient soundscape here because it is intricately layered. It almost recalls some of the later tracks on 'Autobahn', but with modern electronic flourish.
'Song for a Grandular Piano' is the final vocal track, and Doyle uses his voice as another layer of sound throughout much of it. The track is brooding and has a decidedly gothic feel.
'Total Strife Forever IV' is a fascinating beast; it sounds like Doyle is 'playing' white noise at the start. It uses the same melody from 'Total Strife Forever II' but takes a more layered approach and feels like a fitting end to such an exhilarating album.
At first only the most accessible tracks grabbed me, but I have slowly fallen in love with the whole record.
Overall this is a fascinating record for anybody with an active listening ear; it strays a long way from convention and certainly won't be played at a family party but it is an incredible landscape to explore late into the night. It is definitely a challenging record, but one which rewards patience splendidly. A full spectrum of emotions is present, including some truly breathtaking moments which are rare in any type of music.
I'm very excited to be seeing Doyle play live soon, if he is as good as he is on record then it will be a rare treat.
So, in summary: if you like interesting music, this should definitely be experienced.