Formerly the frontman of landfill indie also-rans Doyle & The Fourfathers, twenty-something William Doyle now reinvents himself as an ambient neo-classical composer, East India Youth, for his first solo album, Total Strife Forever.
Rather randomly named as a pun on Foals’ 2010 Mercury Prize-nominated sophomore, Total Life Forever, these eleven tracks prove that the change in musical direction was an inspired one, even if their restless nature suggests Doyle isn’t entirely convinced himself.
Separated into four parts, the title track is an impressively ambitious suite which initially sounds like East India Youth is trying to make contact with alien life forces before moving onto a Steve Reich-esque blend of hymnal organs and sampled choirs, eventually concluding with a strangely triumphant sci-fi drone.
From the sparkling arpeggiated synths of opener “Glitter Recession,” to the rapid-fire techno of “Hinterland” to the ice-cold cinematics of “Midnight Koto,” the remaining instrumentals are just as beautifully constructed. Elsewhere, the jubilant electro of “Dripping Down,” arguably the highlight of Total Strife Forever, proves that Doyle knows his way around a winning pop hook too.
Sadly, the three other vocal-led tracks fail to hit the same heights. Indeed, Doyle’s production skills may have come on leaps and bounds since his guitar band days, but his stoic tones remain entirely unremarkable. On the hymnal “Song For A Granular Piano” and the shoegazing balladry of “Looking For Someone,” they’re left hopelessly exposed.
Doyle would therefore perhaps be better off letting his stylish laptop wizardry do the talking should he continue with his East India Youth alter-ego. But while the abundance of ideas on Total Strife Forever don’t always hit the mark, it’s still a promising and admirably self-assured debut.