The scattering of MIDI notes across the album’s artwork is a clear indicator of what the album is comprised of – digital music. Computer music. Electronic Music. Before the naysayers dismiss it as therefore lacking a ‘human touch’, give Total Strife Forever a chance to prove you wrong, because it will. Hopefully it’ll also inspire you to seek out its influences (Berlin-era Bowie, Eno and Neu! to name just three), encouraging younger listeners to older, seminal genres of music.
William Doyle – aka East India Youth – has become something of a media darling since the release of his debut LP. It has received high praise from virtually all corners, with perhaps the highest praise coming from that fact that Brian Eno is now often seen in attendance at his gigs. The story goes that albums which receive this amount of hype are doomed to disappoint when you actually hear them for yourself. Fortunately, Total Strife Forever lives up to the hype and delivers the goods in spades.
Most of the tracks on the album are straight instrumental tracks. The album’s title track comes in four parts; each working with the same set of notes and playing with them in varying ways. Those four songs themselves are a remarkable achievement, perfectly evoking the album’s inward, contemplative feel. It’s the feeling of someone finding themselves in the face of an isolating urban landscape. Despite this, Total Strife Forever seems to be an optimistic record, as if the answers Doyle is searching for are just around the corner – wherever the corner may be.
Alongside the contemplative instrumental tracks sits the out-and-out techno-dance belter ‘Hinterland’, its effect somehow enhanced by its placement between two of the albums tracks to feature lyrics. Doyle’s voice holds a very prominent place in the songs it features in, it’s his voice clear and distinct from the electronic, industrial noise that surrounds him. In ‘Looking for Someone’ we find Doyle “looking for someone, I don’t know where they are” suggesting he is reaching out for human contact, but this sentiment is cleverly flipped a few lines later when he proclaims that “it’s just for me and no-one else / I need something for myself”. He needs to find his place before he’s ready for the embrace of others.
The album’s triumph comes in the shape of ‘Heaven, How Long?’, which featured on the Hostel EP released last year, it really stands out at the midway point of the album as something different in tone than the rest of the songs. Doyle cleverly manipulates layers of synth-melody, electronic fuzz, and percussion to heighten our anticipation for the euphoric climax, which implores everyone to call out “Heaven, how long?” along with him, before it drops again into an utterly danceable coda. It is a representation of how all pop songs should sound in 2014.
2013 was a great year for music and Total Strife Forever is not only a glorious start to 2014, but East India Youth’s career. Hopefully this is just the beginning of that story.