East India Youth’s “Culture of Volume” a Refreshing Surprise

15 Oct

The indie pop, rock and folk music that I feature on my Friday 9 a.m. – 12 noon shows on Stanford University’s KZSU (listen live on the Internet here) and write about in this blog embraces a wide range of genres and styles. What I seldom get a chance to include is anything that could be classified as experimental.

The common standard by which I choose the music that I play and review is that it has to be melodic. This, by definition, leaves out a lot of the more experimental offerings being created today.

So, it’s exciting to be able to feature on tomorrow’s show William Doyle’s East India Youth and his new album, Culture of Volume.

Based in London, East India Youth blends electronic dance music (EDM) with melodic pop in a way that transcends most of the techno-pop being created today. Meant to be consumed as a whole — not in individual bites (bytes?) — the album ranges from synth-pop that might have put Doyle at the cutting edge of the original electronica revolution in the 1970s and 1980s to edgy, jittery EDM that would be right at home in today’s Berlin club scene.

East India Youth’s efforts on Culture of Volume aren’t universally appreciated. Some who reviewed the album judged Doyle’s work to be pretentious — more style than substance — with artificial lyrics meant to impress upon us the “importance” of his music.

I thoroughly disagree.

I find Culture of Volume to be honest, exciting and something that’s a rare find in today’s well-defined, genre-driven music scene. The expansive, 10-song set is original and varied — with 56 minutes of music that never feels like it’s covering the same ground. And just as Doyle intended, it’s best enjoyed as a complete one-hour musical immersion. But this being radio, I can’t simply put the CD in the tray, close it, press play, and get caught up on my social media while you listen to the album from start to finish. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the specific tracks.

After a jittery EDM warm-up called “The Juddering,” the album’s second track, “End Result,” recalls the beginning of Arcade Fire’s “Ready to Start,” the second track from The Suburbs. In this case, rather than a repeated pinging piano note, it’s a repetitious synth tone in virtually the same cadence. (The pitch is not identical, but close.) This spare start gives way to a lush and melodic synth landscape, underscored by an off-kilter rhythm and ominous vocals warning that “The end result is not what was in mind/The end result is always hard to find.”

Track 4, “Turn Away,” is a pulsing electro-pop number with an extremely catchy melody built on a roaring foundation — with a complex rhythm and captivating changes in dynamics.

“Hearts That Never” has an entirely synthesized, sequencer-driven rhythm that is eerily reminiscent of the one used on Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” in 1977. It is overlaid with Doyle’s crystal-clear, atmospheric vocals.

This track segues directly into Doyle’s most experimental on the album — “Entirety” — a jarringly industrial house track that pushes the limits of what encompasses Culture of Youth.

When that ends, Doyle amazingly leads us seamlessly into “Carousel,” a gorgeous, beat-less soundscape with an anthemic feel painted by Doyle’s remarkable vocals.

There are three more tracks beyond that — including the epic, 10-minute “Manner of Words” — but I’ve already gone on too long. My advice: tune in to my show tomorrow. And if the selections I play intrigue you — add Culture of Youth to your collection.

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