Culture of Volume is the latest album from the young Englishman William Doyle. Doyle produces his special blend of electro pop under the curious moniker East India Youth. This name alone is at once strange, and contains hints of the debonair. It is made up of words that want you to take them in, to ponder them, and debate their meaning. The title Culture of Volume is a line taken from the poem “Monument,” by the English poet Rick Holland. Holland himself has ties to electronic music, perhaps most famously with longtime ambient experimentalist Brian Eno, with whom he collaborated on the 2011 album Drums Between the Bells and also the EP that followed, Panic of Looking. This poetic allusion, coupled with the album cover of Culture of Volume – on which Doyle is dressed as a boarding school youth, complete with a navy blazer and tie clip – are the listener’s first forays into Culture of Volume, and the album hasn’t even begun to play yet.
Fans of Doyle’s previous work, such as his Mercury Prize-nominated breakout Total Strife Forever will likely find Culture of Volume to be a well-awaited follow-up, and in many ways picking up where Total Strife Forever left off. The most noticeable difference in the two albums, however, is how much more Doyle’s choir-inspired vocals are showcased on the new record.
The vocals do not make their debut on the opening track of stuttering waves of electronic noise that is “The Juddering.” Instead they wait until the precious and pop-soaked “End Result,” which sounds poised to act as a musical montage halfway through a Paul Thomas Anderson film. Following this in great contrast is “Beaming White,” which for all its beauty, ends up sounding like the minor hit of an obscure 80s British synth-pop band, as does its successor “Turn Away.”
Doyle closes out Culture of Volume just as wordlessly as he opened it with “Montage Resolution,” on which multitudes of sprightly synthesizers call out as sweetly as the first chirps of birds in the morning. And with this, one sees Culture of Volume for what it is, mainly eight tracks of a pop vocalist meagerly feigning that he is a seasoned veteran, sandwiched between two pieces of computer generated noise. Doyle’s vocals are precisely the reason why Culture of Volume fails to take off. He is no salesman, no showman, and for all intents and purposes that is the sole role of the singer, to be the voice, to draw the listener in. Unfortunately for all his efforts, all Doyle seems to be crying here is wolf.