East India Youth’s 2014 debut, Total Strife Forever, showed a promising new electronic producer with some overly ambitious productions, but with some very hummable pop tunes hidden between huge synths and syncopated beats. It never coagulated into a great album, but the few memorable tunes like Looking for Someone and Heaven, How Long showed some promise for what William Doyle was going to release next. Plus, the retro synth elements, which seem to be omnipresent these days, were quite tame and not just gimmicky reference points trying to show a certain affinity for times past. His sophomore effort however, Culture of Volume, fails to keep this decency and goes full on retro mania with little to add or comment.
The album opens with great siren-like howls and helicopter stabs flying around trying to set a very grave and sombre mood. The only focal point in The Juddering is the bassline coming in about half way in, the rest being grand soundscapes placing themselves in front of you demanding your attention and awe. After this passionate introduction, End Result shows where the album is actually headed to. The song is a mixture of massive electro/dance/pop with the typically shallow abstract lyrics about destiny, life, death and consciousness, in other words, total cheese. The sounds here are more natural and gritty, a opposed to the usual huge reverb filled saw-tooth waves, but it still doesn’t help the mediocre composition. The theme first presented is varied time and time again, or instrumented differently. but these variations come off as mere exercises, showing no purpose whatsoever, so the piece seems confused and unfinished. The rest of the songs continue in the same vein, either opting for a ballad like approach (Manner of Words) or a very serious aggressive stance (Entirety).
While the album tries to develop what I found interesting on Total Strife Forever, namely the poppier, vocal side, it fails to deliver anything convincing, because it tries too hard. The sounds are way too cliched to take seriously, and yet Doyle doesn’t seem to be joking. The stabs, pads and all the glitter of early electronic pop are present here in their dusty old appearances, and there is nothing ironic or joking about them. Carousel is so heart wrenching and metaphoric with its Freddie Mercury attempts at hymnic grandeur and emotional depth that it very slowly and steadily makes you want to cry like you’re fifteen in the ’80s. Manner of Words shows Doyle’s overly ambitious side, going on for over 10 minutes and turning a far too sappy, but not kitschy enough to become good again, ballad into some textures and ambiances, but fails pretty badly for simply carrying on for too long.
If he tried to somehow deconstruct the culture of huge dance/club/techno-y numbers focusing mainly on volume, as the title might suggest, East India Youth somehow focused too much on it. The avantgarde-like elements are far too subtle and unclear to actually phase something as massive as that, and the songs in which he emulates this style are far too grave and close to showing lack of imagination. The pieces lack any kind of flair or charisma and struggle pretty hard to transform some retro elements, but end up using them simply as reference and reverence, which is completely missing the point of retro. Lonely, ambitious, grand and utterly boring, Culture of Volume doesn’t get over itself and how big it tries to be. Too bad.