Culture of Volume is the second album from Mercury Prize nominee William Doyle, known as East India Youth. His solo project combines electro synth and soothing vocals, and is at it’s best when he works with a close balance between the two forms. On Culture of Volume, however, Doyle sways more towards a very electronic album that often becomes repetitive – making the album lacking when it comes to the diversity found on his experimental debut album Total Strife Forever. The album does have its hidden gems though, if you give it a chance.
Opener ‘The Juddering’ provides an expectedly judder-y start to the album, with a raising electronic sound that would not be out of place over the opening credits of a futuristic Sci-Fi film. It doesn’t seem to work as an opening track, and its labouring continuance and eventual fade into nothing creates no excitement for what is to come. Doyle’s second track ‘End Result’ provides a more promising start to the album, with a melodic tone and featuring vocals from Doyle that lift and transform it. Throughout Culture of Volume, it’s the tracks with vocals that hold it together and save the album from becoming a repetitive tangle of electronica and synth, as occurs in ‘Entirety’ which echoes the feeling of an early 90s rave. ‘Turn Away’ is a strong point on the album, combining lyrics that are more diverse than found on ‘End Result’ with a futuristic undercurrent, which creates a captivating contrast. Midway through, the track dissolves into upliftingly euphoria and builds to a powerful climax, which sets it apart from other tracks on the album. With ‘Hearts That Never,’ Doyle provides an interesting riff that you would not be surprised to hear as a theme tune on a games machine at an arcade, making it a playful track.
Although being one of the shortest tracks on Culture of Volume, the repetitiveness of ‘Entirety’ is labouring on the ears and provides a jarring start to the second half of the album. It’s far harsher and metallic than the rest of the album, but it is not a contrast that works well. In fact, it is quite disruptive of the flow of the album, so the softer and soporific ‘Carousel’ is a welcome break. ‘Carousel’ brings Doyle’s beautiful vocals to the album once again, and add a lovely tone that is not dissimilar to Icelandic band Sigur Ros. The latter half of the album is definitely the stronger half, continuing with ‘Don’t Look Backwards’ which steps away from Doyle’s cyclical song structures and features a wider range of instrumentation. This track demonstrates that Doyle is best when he steps a little bit away from the electronic side of his music that sometimes threatens to overwhelm all other components. ‘Manner of Words’ is long enough that listeners can get quite lost in it, and emerge 10 minutes later wondering where you are. Although the length is superfluous, ‘Manner of Words’ is long enough to showcase all of Doyle’s components. It allows listeners to concentrate carefully on each component of his music, from the vocals to the intricately soft synth undercurrent, making it hard to believe that Doyle is a solo artist. ‘Montage Resolution’ provides an echoey and simple ending that works well to wind down the electronic elements of the album.
Culture of Volume is frustratingly close to being a great album, but its great moments are offset by too frequent gaps of electronic nothingness that do not seem to add anything to the album. As a second album, it sadly does not achieve the experimental potential that East India Youth presented in Total Strife Forever, and its flow is hindered by the unusual length of his songs. Culture of Volume may be an album that takes time to grow on listeners, but at first listen it is a little lacklustre.
Culture of Volume is out now via XL Recordings.