Nine Songs: William Doyle
William Doyle, who initially made music under the nom de plume of East India Youth, but now under his own name, has been making thoughtful, dazzlingly electronic pop music since 2012, picking up a Mercury Prize nomination and countless critical plaudits along the way.
In conversation, Doyle speaks passionately and openly about his love of music, and crucially, how he found that love at an early age. In the run-up to the release of Your Wilderness Revisited, he talked of treasured teenage memories, of cycling around his hometown of Bournemouth, listening to Talking Heads and David Bowie at deafening volume.
As an artist, Doyle is completely aware of the transformative power that music holds and he keenly searches for those eureka moments, whether that’s in his own music or the music he enjoys and draws inspiration from.
As a voracious consumer of music, the songs that Doyle has selected are drawn from the last nine albums he’s added to his vinyl collection, with each and every one of them bought at his favourite record shop, World of Echo. “When you go into a shop and you develop a relationship with the person behind the counter, they’ll recommend something and it’s exactly what you want to hear. It’s that part of the whole experience that I enjoy most,” he says.
“Last year one of my friends opened World of Echo on Columbia Row in London and that shop has helped me get back into buying records with the kind of hunger that I used to have as a teenager, because I’d fallen out of love with it a little bit.
“I like the mythos and romanticism of vinyl as much as anything,” Doyle admits. “It’s the thing that makes me keep coming back to them. You’re buying a little world to live in, and these aren’t purchases that I can take lightly. I’m aware of how ludicrous that sounds, but it’s a ludicrous world we live in, isn’t it?”
Doyle’s recent vinyl treasure hunt has seen him revisit his youth, where he found first pressing of The Fall’s This Nation’s Saving Grace and the just released Tara Clerkin Trio album, which is so new there’s not a YouTube or Spotify link to be found (we’ve added another great song of theirs to sort of make up for that)
Whether he’s talking about recent purchases or his own music, Doyle’s credo is brilliantly simple; great music is transcendent, and we should always look to find beauty, even in the most mundane of places.
“This Nation’s Saving Grace is a good entry-level Fall record, and it’s probably the first one I ever heard when I was… fifteen, sixteen? It’s that time in your life when the discovery of new music is just relentless, and I remember that this record hit me from the get-go.
“I liked it because all that I knew about The Fall up until that point was that they had made a lot of difficult music, and it was that feeling of being challenged by music that made me so intrigued. But this album has that Brix Smith-era, John Leckie production that brings out their pop side, as well as their challenging side. This track “Barmy” has a great hook and a great riff, but it also has a signature sense of intensity, and it oscillates between those two poles for the whole thing. It’s got so much energy.
“I’ve known and loved this album for fifteen years, but for some reason I’ve never owned a copy of it until really recently. If you’re going to start buying Fall records you have no idea where it will end, so I’ve just been picking them up periodically throughout my record-buying life.
“But I went into the record shop the other day and there was this really beautiful, first-pressing copy and I just went for it. I hadn’t heard it in about five years, and I dived right in and found so much that I loved in there, there was so much to enjoy. From start to finish, the album is just a total banger.”
“I think this album came out last week, but I’ve had it for a few weeks now. I first heard it at World of Echo and it’s got that slowed down, Stereolab vibe. I was listening along in the shop and when the ‘drop’ happened - for want of a better word - I had to buy it immediately.
“There are so many different aspects of “In the Room” that I love. There are these clarinet parts that give you that Baroque feel, that you might get from a Julia Holter song, and of course they’re from Bristol so there’s this whole trip-hop thing happening in there. The album seems to have gone a little bit under the radar and it hasn’t seen much press, so I’ll take any opportunity to talk about it. I’d implore anybody to listen to it.
“This kind of sound-world isn’t somewhere that I’ve been for a while and it was great to go back there. Years ago, I remember seeing the cover of Stereolab’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup and being immediately intrigued, and the music inside was transformative. I get that kind of feeling from Tara Clerkin and particularly from this track.
“When I’m making things, I like to be in this place where I’m pushing organic sounds into otherworldly, synthetic environments. It’s a great juxtaposition and there’s endless fun to be had in that space, where the organic and synthetic meet. I’m always trying to make an otherworldly experience using the tools in front of me, rather than trying to force something to happen that feels insincere. I think Tara Clerkin is doing the same.”
“Deerhunter are my favourite band, full-stop. It feels good to say something like that so definitively, but it’s completely true.
“I didn’t like Fading Frontier when it came out, but now I absolutely adore it. When Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared? came out I felt that it didn’t live up to the promise of “Death in Midsummer”, but as time has gone on I’ve fallen in love with everything they’ve got on the album. I love everything they’ve ever done. They make really well-considered music and some of their songs are just breathtaking.
“I know that perhaps some of their recent albums don’t have the relentlessly adventurous spirit that their earlier releases had, but their songs have always been fantastic. Cryptograms was all over the place but I really enjoyed the sense of freedom in it, whereas Fading Frontier doesn’t have a note out of place and it’s just as spectacular.
"It makes me feel better about my music in a way, because I hated Monomania when it first came out. Something must have possessed me, but then I put it on and realised that it was literally perfect and that there was nothing I would change. All of their albums can be completely immediate, or they can be total growers. I think my most recent album is a grower, and hopefully that comes through.
“Deerhunter give me this feeling of sheer ecstasy. When I saw them at End of the Road last year, it was a totally religious experience; as though the universe had conspired to give me that moment. Deerhunter always have that potential, to give you life-changing moments.
“So it’s no surprise that Bradford Cox and Cate Le Bon are such an incredible meeting of minds. With Cate Le Bon, everything feels totally deliberate, as though everything is exactly where she wants it to be. She’s a great writer in the way that Bradford Cox is, and the way that she fronts her band is just incredible. The whole record of this collaborative EP is superb, and you get this wonderful sense that there’s lots of improvisation happening. With “Secretary” it feels like the culmination of the project. I like the melody, I like the way the chords change. It’s a really beautiful song.”
“The edition of this record that I bought isn’t the recent one that’s been issued by Luaka Bop, it’s the original pressing. Doug Hream Blunt wrote and recorded the album when he was a teacher, and a lot of the instruments that you hear on the album were played by teenagers who weren’t totally proficient. Loads of the drum fills are totally off, and some of the note choices on guitar are strange but it all totally works. Even the piano part just goes on and on and on, and it works, it really adds to the overall feel of the song.
“Unsurprisingly, or surprisingly - however you want to look at it - Doug Hream Blunt is an influence on Dean Blunt. You can totally hear it when you know it’s there. Lots of the Gentle Persuasion album, especially “Ride the Tiger”, reminds me of Dean Blunt’s Black Metal. The music seems to be endlessly looping and he’s singing over the top in this completely improvisatory, ad hoc style. You’ll hear the similarities between them if you play the two artists in sequence.
“Is Dean Blunt’s name Dean Blunt? I have no idea. There’s lots that we don’t know about that guy, but I do wonder if he’s been influenced in a way by Doug Hream Blunt. What I like about Doug Hream Blunt is that he seems totally fearless, and that feeling of fearlessness comes across totally on this song.”
“In the last few years there have been lots of archival releases from Arthur Russell’s back catalogue that I’ve been digging into, and I’ve especially enjoyed this album Iowa Dream.
"I Never Get Lonesome” has got this Americana, country kind of vibe, which is all over Iowa Dream. Lots of the tracks on the album have this abstract, ‘not-quite-right' feel to them, that I never thought you could find with Americana. I’ve only recently come to appreciate the melancholy possibilities of the genre - it can be really cosmic too.
“Hank Williams has this skyward, open feel to his songs and so does Arthur Russell. Even the word ‘lonesome’ has this very singular meaning, that only pops up in the lexicon of country and American folk music. It’s a great word that just seems to sit in a song so beautifully and it totally encapsulates the feeling that it’s talking about in a perfect way.
“What I love about Arthur Russell is that he was fiercely creative; he made some really interesting music, but he always had a foot in the roots he grew up with. It’s a really noble goal to have as a writer, to be interesting without being exclusionary towards your audience. You can make really approachable ‘pop’ music without ever having to compromise on your artistic ideals.
"I try and hone in on those forms of art that can cause you to be transported by something, that has really familiar elements, and Arthur Russell embodies that for me.”
“I absolutely love this track, and I didn’t account for how much of an impact the album would have on me. When I put these nine songs together I thought, ‘Here we go, we’re going to be going all over the place’, but there are real threads that connect all of these songs together.
“I’m always writing new music, but right now I’m consciously trying to get things together for a new record. I’d intended for the new music to be stripped-down, with fewer elements than the album I’ve just made, but as soon as I heard this song I thought, ‘Damn, she’s beaten me to it.’ Hearing “Back From Ten” gave me some sort of validation too, because it assured me that the ideas that were coming to me can’t have been too crazy, because this album is placed so perfectly in that emotional space. It hits you in a really accurate way.
“One of the instruments I’ve been using recently is this old Casiotone keyboard and the drum machine sounds pop up everywhere on this R. Elizabeth album. She seems to have nailed the naff sound that I was after and it inspired me to try and delve even deeper into that territory. Just when I thought I’d got something new, some space that I could make my own, I heard this and I absolutely love that it already exists.
“As soon as I heard “Back From Ten” it was stuck in my head for days on end. It just has this one thing that just goes on for the whole seven minutes, but I found it to be such an emotional song for reasons I can’t fully put my finger on. I love to find something that gives you that ethereal, irrevocable sense of melancholy and “Back From Ten” really does it for me.”
“I don’t tend to do ‘albums of the year’ because so many things change and you can end up regretting your decisions, but Uzun Havalar, the album this track is from, was probably my album of 2019.
“It’s supposed to be these synth explorations of Turkish folk music, but what it reminds me of most is early to mid ‘70s German progressive electronic bands, like Cluster and Harmonia. Those bands have been such an influence on my career and I love to hear new music that occupies that space.
“Anadol is a Turkish sound artist. She lives in Berlin and she hasn’t made an album like this before. From what I can gather, she’s made lots of academic, serious music, but this has a lot of playfulness in it; it's certainly the best album I’ve bought in a long time.
“That progressive, electronic, almost German sound crawls through this Anadol record, but if you listen to the whole album you’ll find yourself thinking ‘How the hell did we get here?’ at lots of different points, because so many different sounds fly in and out of the stereo field. The production on the entire album is incredible - each constituent part just blends perfectly.
“Görünmez Hava” is the first track on the album and it kicks off with this relentless bass line. What a way to open a record.”
“This is a record shop moment that I really treasure. I remember the owner of the shop putting this on while a few of us were having a conversation in there, but when “Old News” came on I completely withdrew from the conversation and for the whole duration of the track I got lost in its world.
“It’s such a brilliant piece of understated music. It trundles along with a vocal that’s barely audible, that’s coming in and out, with the whole thing sounding a bit off-time and a bit off-key. There’s a wonderful sense of joy or contentment in its pace and its delivery that takes me along with it completely.
“It’s got this really interesting lo-fi quality to it, but it’s lo-fi in a way that you might associate with Broadcast or Wire maybe. It’s lo-fi without wearing that as a badge of honour. It doesn’t have to tell you that it’s lo-fi for you to know that, and it’s all the better for it.
“When musicians make lo-fi music, but do it with a sense of purity and seriousness, it really shines through. This track is a great example of how to do that well.”
“I love the greats of underground German music from the early and mid ‘70s. There was a great piece In The Quietus recently about how little reverence is given to contemporaneous French music. Heldon was a band that did really interesting stuff around that time. Richard Pinhas was an integral part of that band and he went on to make some excellent solo material.
“Another artist that I love who plays with these contrasts is Alexander Tucker of Grumbling Fur. I was first introduced to him through the Grumbling Fur album Glynnaestra, but it’s his last album, Guild of the Asbestos Weaver, that really stands out for me. He should be playing venues with ten times the capacity that he is currently, because he’s such an important musician. He follows in this long tradition of experimental, drone-influenced artists and he’s making incredible music solo and as part of the band.”
"Richard Pinhas’s Ice Land is a classic in the genre. It’s layered with these repetitive sequences and lots of atmospheric sequences, swirling around you at all times. “Wintermusic” is an amazing, long-form piece of ambient drone, made before that term was ever coined.”