When William Doyle first performed live as East India Youth in November 2012 to a dozen people in a tiny Dalston basement venue, it was remarkable that he made it through the entire 25 minute gig without incident. He was using a knackered Macbook with a malfunctioning USB port, an antiquated mixer and a Casio MT45 keyboard bought off eBay for 15; and all of it was skidding around a plastic trestle table which constantly threatened to collapse, as it was buckling at the knees like Bambi on ice. During his second gig (in another basement in Hackney but this time to 40 people) he came up with a smart way of keeping everything exactly where he wanted it: by securing it all with cartons of apple juice borrowed from the bar and gaffa taped in place.
Over the next two years his achievements seemed as effortlessly gained as they were well-deserved. He released the 'Hostel' EP via the Quietus Phonographic Corporation in March 2013 and then his critically acclaimed debut album 'TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER' on Stolen Recordings in January 2014, which would go on to be nominated for the Mercury Prize. He went on tour with Factory Floor, supported These New Puritans and by the Summer of 2014 became a big festival draw in his own right. And while he might have upgraded his equipment and invested in a sturdy new table that allowed him to leave six cartons of apple juice and a roll of gaffa tape off his rider, essentially his live set-up was still the same - one electronic musician behind a table full of gadgets, occasionally clutching a bass guitar.
But in November 2014, almost two years to the night after his first ever gig, he played his biggest headline show to date - a sold out night in Heaven, the legendary London nightclub. After playing all of 'TOTAL STRIFE FOREVER' - it was time for an EIY first. He stepped out from behind his table into the spotlights and sang 'CAROUSEL' - the heart-breaking new electronic ballad which forms the centrepiece of his astounding second album, 'CULTURE OF VOLUME' released by XL. Essentially he walked on stage that night as an electronic musician and walked off it as a pop star. It was time for East India Youth as a project to step out of the shadows and into the light; it was time to leave the hinterland and claim the centre stage space as his own.
Speaking now, the 24 year old explains: "It was performing live that made me realise that I wanted to be more of a front person. It was quite a big gesture, because I'd been stood behind the table for two years - striking quite an electronic musician stance. This new persona requires me to be a bit more flamboyant and a bit more energetic. I was definitely letting people know that night that this was the first bit of the next step for East India Youth and this was how it was going to be from then on. 'Big "pop stars" get to sing over backing tracks' I thought, 'so why can't I do it as well?!'"
Initially supposed to be a difficult, underground album when it was first conceived in 2012, 'CULTURE OF VOLUME' rapidly mutated into a very different beast indeed but it wasn't a path that Doyle was initially happy with: "I didn't feel comfortable for a long time with the idea of making a pop album. But I ended up realising that was where I wanted this album to go and that's how I see myself now. And if I don't do it now, I'll never do it ever again. All my pop star ambitions exist right now in this space."
Named after a fragment of verse from the poem 'Monument' written by Brian Eno collaborator Rick Holland, 'CULTURE OF VOLUME' is a dizzying achievement, especially given that it was -- much like his debut -- mainly recorded on his own, in his bedroom at home in London. He explains: "I always wanted to make quite sophisticated music using very unsophisticated means." (It should be said however, that he got by with a little help from his friends. Some of the tracks feature string parts laid down by Hannah Peel; legendary producer for the likes of British Sea Power and These New Puritans, Graham Sutton, is credited with mixing the album and visual artist Dan Tombs created the artwork inspired by Andy Warhol's experiments with computer technology.)
The album opens with 'THE JUDDERING' - an austere slice of electronica
that nods to both the David Bowie track 'Station To Station' and
Cluster's Zuckerzeit', while remaining purely its own thing. But if this
creates any expectations in the listener then these are atomised by 'END
RESULT', a dark but beautiful pop gem, which touches on the
unpredictability of the creative process and the transience of life.
After such a perversely down opening, Doyle unseats our expectations again with 'BEAMING WHITE', a glistening Pet Shop Boys referencing synth disco monster and then 'TURN AWAY', an epic, widescreen trance-inflected synth pop number. 'HEARTS THAT NEVER' pulls off an amazing trick: recreating the breathless excitement of hearing loud minimalist dance music in a club but in a pop music format. The BPMs remain high for 'ENTIRETY', a distorted and banging techno track which builds to an almost unbearable intensity. But this jagged peak has been elevating the listener just in order to drop them headfirst into undoubted album centrepiece, the baleful and resigned thing of beauty that is 'CAROUSEL'.
After being put through their emotional paces, the listener is suddenly granted sweet release with the languid Balearic pop of 'DON'T LOOK BACKWARDS'. The penultimate track, 'MANNER OF WORDS' -- a crystal edifice of chiming synth pop balladry -- is a thing of grandeur, while the final track, 'MONTAGE RESOLUTION' almost brings us back full circle with the kind of austere electronic instrumental that wouldn't be out of place on a classic Brian Eno or Yellow Magic Orchestra album.
And if it sounds like none of the above should work -- Pet Shop Boys style pop bangers next to industrial techno, next to sci-fi Scott Walker style ballads next to ambient explorations, next to Krautrock style synthesizer laments -- then that, according to Doyle, is the point: "Part of the thing with this album and surrounding elements such as artwork has been trying to combine things that wouldn't usually go together. The whole vibe of the album is certainly trying to force errors by making unlikely connections and seeing what happens."
As the man himself sings at the opening of what will be remembered as one of the best electronic pop albums of the decade: "The end result is not what was in mind."
John Doran, London, January 2015
13 Nov, 2019
William Doyle's new album 'Your Wilderness Revisited', is reviewed in The Quietus.
12 Nov, 2019
William Doyle is interviewed in The Quietus, on the release of his new album 'Your Wilderness Revisited'.
06 Nov, 2019
William Doyle's new album 'Your Wilderness Revisited' has been receiving many excellent press reviews, including 'The Big Release' in Metro.
Metro: 5/5 "Exceptional English soul-jazz that ranks among the best albums of the century."
The Line Of Best Fit: 9/10
Loud & Quiet: 8/10
DIY Magazine: 4/5
04 Nov, 2019
William Doyle's album 'Your Wilderness Revisited' gets a 4.5 Star review in Music OMH.
02 Nov, 2019
William Doyle has announced his UK tour for February 2020.
30 Oct, 2019
William Doyle (previously Mercury nominated with his East India Youth project) is releasing his first new album for four years 'Your Wilderness Revisited', on October 18th. The album is an extraordinarily imagined exploration on the theme of the British suburban environment, inspired by William's personal experience of having grown up in this setting and how he eventually saw beyond its ordinary stereotypes, towards something that was both illuminating and inspirational. It features guest appearances from writer and film maker Jonathan Meades (whose programme 'Magnetic North' was an influence on the album), saxophonist Laura Misch and legendary musician Brian Eno.
As William himself puts it, "This album has been rattling inside of me for over 10 years now. When I left the suburb I spent my entire teenage life in, I started to think back to it and notice the influence it had on me, on my art, and on my development as a person. The architecture and the planning of the modern British suburb influenced this album as much as the experiences and emotions I superimposed upon that landscape at a formative age. I started creating in these places, I started to expand myself in these places, I grappled with grief and loss in these places. I realised that I wouldn't be alone in having these experiences here, and so I thought there should be a way of redefining or reimagining these places that painted a different picture of them in our collective consciousness. These weren't just places to escape to the nearest city from â€“ perhaps they held as much truth and beauty in them as anywhere else. This album is, in part, an interrogation and excavation of that truth and beauty."
22 Oct, 2019
"His most complete artistic statement to date." - 4/5 MOJO
"William Doyle has dug back into his teenage years to create something with real heart here." - 4/5 Q
"A heady blend that’s easy to get lost in, ‘Your Wilderness Revisited’ might be his most accessible record to date." - 4/5 DIY
"A proper old-fashioned grower, intriguing enough to stick with after the first spin, and increasingly rewarding with each subsequent one." - 8/10 Loud & Quiet
William Doyle is interviewed in Loud & Quiet.
14 Oct, 2019
William Doyle shares his new single 'Continuum' in The Quietus.
Taken from his album 'Your Wilderness Revisited', due on 1st November 2019
05 Sep, 2019
William Doyle has announced the release of his new album 'Your Wilderness Revisited', on 25th October.
04 Sep, 2019
William Doyle presents a new track 'Design Guide' featuring Brian Eno.
Taken from the forthcoming album 'Your Wilderness Revisited', released on 18th October.
"I started it four years ago, and it's been a very strange, wonderful and scary process in which I learned so much about myself and the world around me. The new single 'Design Guide' is now available to listen to and feels like one of the best tracks on it to me, though I love them all dearly. It also features Brian Eno delivering a spoken vocal, reading a collage of phrases I'd gleaned from various British borough council housing design guides."
|18 Feb 20||The Hug & Pint||Glasgow|
|19 Feb 20||Headrow House||Leeds|
|20 Feb 20||YES||Manchester|
|23 Feb 20||The Hope & Ruin||Brighton|
|25 Feb 20||The Crofters Rights||Bristol|
|26 Feb 20||Colours||London|