Culture of Volume
East India Youth, aka William Doyle, is the sort of a musical act that should be very easy to dislike. Google “East India Youth”, select the Images tab and just look at him. He looks like a cross between John Lennon circa 1964 and Myra Hindley (well, also circa 1964). He then has the audacity to look like that and perform his music camped behind a MacBook Pro and a synth keyboard. It shouldn’t really be on, should it? It comes as somewhat of a surprise, then, when you put on Culture of Volume and it’s actually one of the most well-crafted albums of the year so far. But then, this skinny kid from London with spectacularly dodgy taste in shirts is full of surprises.
Opening track ‘The Juddering’ is appropriately named and sets the tonally challenging, er, tone right from the off. Culture of Volume is the sort of record, overall, that is not afraid to go off in wildly obtuse directions and this song goes from sounding like a muddled version of THX’s old “deep note” intro before eventually into evolving into something almost cathartic. It is equal parts startling and oddly pleasing on a level slightly beneath the surface.
This is followed by the excellent ‘End Result’ which, if heard out of context, you would be forgiven for thinking was written in 1985, so perfectly has he captured the synth-pop sound that he is so clearly aiming for. It is also perhaps the strongest effort lyrically on the album, as Doyle notes that:
“The end result is coming soon
After the years of sifting through
The crumbs it leaves for you
The end result is all there is
And to no fanfare it strikes in
Surrender to its will”
Again, it’s an unexpected turn coming off ‘The Juddering’, but it absolutely works. ‘Beaming White’ continues in a similar vein. The mid-section features a number of similar outings such as ‘Turn Away’ and ‘Hearts That Never’ which perhaps are not quite as strong (or striking, in the context of the way the record flows) but that isn’t to say that they’re not good, enjoyable pop songs. They almost serve to lull the listener into a false sense of security, as Culture of Volume suddenly descends into the Max Payne 3 soundtrack for a few minutes with the glorious instrumental ‘Entirety’. The fact that he manages to go from sounding like Pet Shop Boys to this in the space of a couple of tracks is quite admirable indeed.
It all sort of goes a bit, well, on the rails from there and with the twists and turns featured in the opening and middle section it feels a little bit anti-climactic. ‘Carousel’ was chosen as a single and it’s hard to see why – it’s one of the weakest efforts on the album lyrically and it’s a bit of a struggle musically. The enjoyable ‘Manner of Words’ descends into fuzz at the end for a good three minutes while ‘Montage Resolution’ sounds a bit like background noise off a Samsung ad.
Overall, Culture of Volume is a lot of things. It’s ragged and rough around the edges, it’s brilliantly written and composed in places while coming off as childish and dull elsewhere. If you just looked him up on the internet and made an assumption about what the album would sound like it’s everything you’d expect for the most part and not at all what you would think in others. When you boil it all down it is simply a very good album, where the enthralling highs outweigh the lows.