21 October 2014

East India Youth - Total Strife Forever


This is the second of my reviews for our coverage of the Mercury Music Awards and, again, it’s by an artist I previously had no knowledge of. This time it’s someone called East India Youth. From that name I was expecting something, I dunno, ethnic? Maybe World Music, Bhangra, Jazz or even Hip Hop. It turns out it’s none of those things. It’s an ambient, electronic, one man project run by, the not-very-ethnic sounding, William Doyle from Bournemouth. 

Total Strife Forever is his debut album as East India Youth, though he has released an EP prior to this and was previously the vocalist in a band called Doyle And The Fourfathers who I am also unfamiliar with.
Things begin very subtly with Glitter Recession; it very gradually fades in with a haunting melody, at first played on a lone piano that slowly becomes synth led.  It reminds me of the 8-bit style music on old computer games as a kid, Out Run etc. It’s a pretty piece of music but outstays its welcome and doesn’t really progress anywhere once it gets going.

The next song is Total Strife Forever I. It’s another instrumental and based around an interesting staccato synth line that’s drowned in static, it slowly increases in tension but doesn’t really build to any great crescendo and, after 6 ½ minutes, it peters out to nothing.

Dripping Down is the first song to feature vocals; his well-spoken and lackadaisical vocal style suits the music well. Starting with some electronic drums and atmospherics, the verses start with the line “You may be moving at glacial paces but you’re not melting” and you get the impression he was particularly pleased with that lyric. After a minute or so the song picks up considerably and, along with the harmonies in the chorus, it makes this a nice little Indie/Synthpop song.

Hinterland is yet another instrumental. It starts with a repetitive beep that sounds kind of like a radar. Again, it gradually picks up pace until the drums kick in after about 2 minutes at which point it bounces along on a 90’s trance beat. It’s alright.
This is followed by Heaven, How Long which is the second song to feature vocals and it’s a grandiose epic that goes from some gentle synths to an almost New Romantic finale. The vocals on this are really nice too. Easily the best song so far.

After that, Total Strife Forever II is a bit of a let down, but anything that sounds like discordant, electronic bagpipes was never going to be pleasant.

The next song seems to have been the main single from the album, though I could be wrong. Mournful, acapella vocals lead Looking For Someone in for a verse before a slow, pounding beat heralds in the next one. The majority of the song features a great swathe of synthesised church organs that parp away merrily before everything comes to a close with the final verse. It’s a decent song apart from one flaw: The lyrics are awful. It’s honestly  like they were written by a lovelorn twelve year old. They’re simplistic, trite and ruin, for me, what would have been a pretty decent song.

William Doyle enjoying a particularly nice wall

Two more instrumentals next; Midnight Koto is a minimal, droning dirge and Total Strife Forever III sounds like the soundtrack to a ropey 70’s Sci-fi film, all sweeping flanges and dramatic synthesisers. It’s oddly likeable in a cheesy, trippy kind of way.
The final track with vocals is Song for A Granular Piano which is kicked off with some multi-layered harmonies before giving way to a meandering vocal and some mellow cascading piano and ending with the harmonies again. It’s okay but feels more like an extended interlude than a proper song.

The last track is also the last of the eponymous tracks, Total Strife Forever IV. It's full of scratchy static; the kind you get when you’re speakers are bust but are still trying to play the song. Eventually more of those retro synths appear and you can almost see the grainy footage of a tripped out astronaut stepping onto the surface of Mars for the first time.

When I first listened to Total Strife Forever I hated it. After a few more listens the hate faded and I just find the album incredibly frustrating now. There are a couple of good tracks and some that could be decent if they didn’t seem like works in progress. I think that’s where the main problem with this is; it feels like a collection of demo’s and half formed ideas, especially with only four of the eleven tracks having vocals. An album full of songs like Dripping Down and Heaven, How Long would have been a worthy winner of the Mercury Music Awards but this? This I find hard to understand how it was even released as is, as horrible as that sounds.
Another thing that irked me is that, with an instrumental song you can pretty much call it anything you like, let your imagination run wild! To just call them Total Strife Forever I-V is lazy and a waste. The only way it might be acceptable is if he’d done it with all eleven tracks or if they were all variations of the same piece of music. As far as I can tell, they’re not. Annoying.

Best Track: Heaven, How Long
3 out of 10 - Not for everyone but played well

Listen on Spotify HERE

Buy from Amazon HERE

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