East India Youth, Total Strife Forever

Sharon O'Connell

By Sharon O'Connell

on 01.13.14 in Reviews

As East India Youth, 23-year-old William Doyle has already managed to distinguish himself at a time when UK leftfield electronica is in seriously rude health. 2013 hit a peak, with high-profile releases from Jon Hopkins, Fuck Buttons, James Blake, the Haxan Cloak and James Holden, but EIY still made his mark with his debut EP Hostel, a canny, tag-averse combination of techno, ambient electronica, krautrock, synth-pop and singer-songwriter fare.

The confident first step of a maverick embarking on a solid career

His full-length first is slightly easier to pin down, its threads less in need of teasing out from the bigger picture. EIY is obviously a fan of both the strong pop melody and the subliminal mood piece and he’s been refreshingly forthright about some of the records that helped him on his way, among them Tim Hecker’s brilliant Ravedeath, 1972. Both that album’s overall ambience (anguished and abrasive, but not aggressive) and its quasi-ecclesiastical synths are evident, as is an admiration of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy (which surfaces on the chilly “Midnight Koto” and haunting “Total Strife Forever III”) and Sufjan Stevens’s Age Of Adz (via the dense and euphoric “Dripping Down”).

The Erasure-styled entreaty to sleep that is “Heaven So Long” reappears from the EP and is surely the only pop song ever to mention both valerian and the anti-depressant amitriptyline, but “Hinterland” and “Looking for Someone” are less conventionally melodic. The former is an exercise in minimal techno that builds to a furious, almost militaristic climax before dissolving suddenly in a shower of frosty synths, while the latter plunges from a sweet, Vampire Weekend-like intro into the kind of electronic eeriness that distinguishes Bowie’s Low.

Despite the title — and whatever worries might trouble its author — Total Strife Forever sounds very much like the confident first step of a maverick embarking on a solid career.