Review Summary: Brighter is betterCulture of Volume
, East India Youth’s latest offering, begins about how you’d expect it to: An erratic, helicopter propeller, bass-synth mood piece that is indebted to late 1970’s David Bowie. Going off of this, however, one couldn’t be faulted if they didn’t take this as a red herring. In recent interviews, Doyle has expressed interest in becoming more of a frontman, and relishing the directness and hooks that often comes with it. East India Youth’s debut album, Total Strife Forever
, was chock full of influences and ideas, jumping from pulsing electronic instrumentals to songs like Heaven, How Long and Dripping Down that balanced the synths and atmospheric approach with enough emotional heft and hooks to stand out as highlights. Yet these moments were in the minority, as Doyle’s propensity for needlessly extended instrumentals kneecapped his debut to a certain extent. The cool, detached, and experimental nature could be summed up with Total Strife Forever
’s album cover: a cold and pallid portrait of Doyle with white lines running across his face. The cover for Culture of Volume
still bears Doyle’s face, but facing a different direction with a warmer orange and slightly pixelated background, informing the listener of the changes that are in store for Doyle’s creative process. Tempered with straightforward, hook-centric, heart-on-sleeve inclinations, Doyle has built upon Total Strife Forever
’s aesthetic and has avoided the second album pitfalls, creating a more enjoyable and varied work in the process.
For the most part, Culture of Volume
boasts brighter synths and a cleaner, more pristine production that quite often puts Doyle’s voice at the forefront in contrast to the reverb and aural obfuscation heard on his debut. Yet despite that desire to streamline, Doyle expresses his surprise at how Culture of Volume
turned out, both in interviews and in song. In fact, the first line we hear Doyle sing is on End Result: “The end result is not what was in mind/ The end result is always hard to find”. Other ideas bolster this lyric, as a subtle yet insistent xylophone line that adds texture and melody while live drums snap and crackle with energy. Turn Away is another highlight, melding together bright synths, hooks and syncopated drums together with a good dollop of 80’s melodrama: “Turn away/ I never should be seen to be falling from grace/ but here I am again today/ with nothing on my tongue/ but all these reasons why I shouldn’t stay.” Beaming White is a Neil Tennant-indebted song with modern sensibilities, reworking the best elements of Please
-era Pet Shop Boys into a propulsive groove underpinning a sensational sequence of hooks.
Yet Doyle’s latest offering isn’t merely an album disguised as a collection of energetic singles. Hearts That Never is bit of a slow burner, using its almost seven minute length to gradually build tension and atmosphere into an effective club jam. Carousel serves as the emotional center, where warm synth washes and ambient drones swell and recede against Doyle’s tender vocal tastefully saturated with reverb. It’s a rousing number, with Doyle using few words to convey such an emotional punch while letting the musical buildup handle the emotional lifting in equal measure. Don’t Look Backwards has synth arpeggios and washes alongside dueling piano progressions: one that is modern-sounding and well-tuned; the other showing its age, almost sounding saloon-like. This instrumental clashing provides a subtle contrast in texture that works wonders for the song.
With the plethora of ideas on display, it stands to reason that not everything works here on Culture of Volume
. Entirety rides a fairly generic industrial groove and fails to build upon it aside from a brief ambient bridge halfway through. Manner of Words has its share of energy and hooks in its first half but doesn’t fully earn its needlessly extended outro, and Montage Resolution is an odd closer, reverting back to and mining ideas already expanded upon earlier in the album. However, it’s a welcome change to hear Doyle’s penchant for idea-stuffing countered by the focus on melody, accessibility, and variety. While this batch of songs may have been hard-fought and not what was in mind for Doyle, if he can continue to build upon his new approach, one can look forward to his next end result with intrigue and eagerness.