Nothing says ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’ quite like making the decision to branch out from music journalism into the running of an independent record label – the former is, at best, in a state of genuine transition, while the latter remains a business that operates on the very brink of financial viability. We’ve given it go, as has The Line of Best Fit, while The Quietus in April 2013 were inspired to release the debut EP from East India Youth, the stage name of Bournemouth producer William Doyle.

Alongside some characteristically visceral comments about the unforgiving nature of the industry he’s just entered into, Quietus head honcho John Doran provided a terrific insight into the mentality behind the decision to start releasing music on his own terms when he claimed, “I would’ve remortgaged my own soul to get this music out there”, in reference to Doyle’s debut full-length, ‘Total Strife Forever’.

It’s a delight to report that this LP is nothing like as insipid as the Foals record from which it cheekily takes its name; this is a genuinely ambitious statement of intent from an artist who clearly has no qualms whatsoever about blurring genre boundaries. ‘Hinterland’ is a disorientating example of Doyle’s willingness to force a host of incongruous influences into the same sonic space; a rushing, bassy beat and repetitive, techno-style synths battle for prominence, before the latter ascends in urgent fashion, like a ticking time bomb, before finally giving way to a sudden retro flavour in the percussion, as the beat takes on a ‘Blue Monday’ feel. ‘Total Strife Forever III’ – the track around which the record was ultimately built – takes the atmospheric buzz of opener ‘Glitter Recession’ and skews it, with off-kilter electronics and unpredictable fade ins and outs making for a genuinely mercurial soundscape.

‘Heaven How Long’ takes things in a different direction entirely, reaching a middle ground between electro and dream pop that’s pleasingly contemporary – think MONEY if they swapped their guitars for synths. ‘Dripping Down’ is in similar territory; the combination of almost tribal drumming with twinkling keyboards should be a jarring one, but Doyle’s soothing vocals work well as the track’s anchor. ‘Midnight Koto’ sounds like Doyle’s pitch for a new Blade Runner score; like much of this record, it’s not hugely intricate, or especially structurally complex, but Doyle’s keen ear for minimalism means it doesn’t need to be.

‘Total Strife Forever’ is a fittingly forward-thinking record with which to kick off 2014; it’s time for a new approach to minimalist songwriting, one that isn’t yet another pale imitation of The xx, to permeate the mainstream, and East India Youth has offered up a serious candidate in that regard.


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