Seeing William Doyle live you always got the impression he had more ideas than he knew what to do with, and occasionally, those ideas seemed to jar. The bits of pounding electronica accompanied by him attempting to dismantle the table carrying his laptop with his bare hands, and the bits where he sounded a little like James Blake with a pulse, didn’t always gel.
But ‘Total Strife Forever’ completely does. It flows brilliantly, darting between epic apocalyptic soundscapes, delicately melodic electronic pop songs and to driftingly ambient sketches while sounding entirely at one with itself. Doyle still seems like a man with more ideas than is fair, reasonable or indeed safe, but they all blend together with a coherence bordering on cosmic.
It is a glorious thing. ‘Glitter Recession’ sparkles, pulses and out-Fuck Buttons Fuck Buttons, presumably leaving it high on the list for the next major sporting event Danny Boyle is involved in. ‘Total Strife Forever I’ thrums forebodingly, like a crash landed alien craft sounding a forlorn distress beacon, before it explodes in a distorted cloud of kaleidoscopic space dust.
Following the apocalypse, it then decides to have a party. ‘Dripping Down’ is lighter, Doyle’s voice quivering as gorgeously delicate synths tinkle around him before blossoming into full life. ‘Hinterland’ comes off like Björk’s ‘Declare Independence’ re-imagined by a Phillip Glass fan, while the epic ‘Heaven How Long’ spends most of its running length perilously balanced on the edge of a breakdown that, when it does eventually come, is tremendously euphoric.
It’s only when you look at the album in its totality that the skill and thought that has gone in to ‘Total Strife Forever’ really begin to show through. If the album started with an end, then thought better of it and had a little dance, it closes in redemptive mood. Presumably preempting the morning after the Armageddon before, when everyone wakes up and hopes they aren’t going to have to tidy the mess. It is cinematic but stark - ‘Midnight Koto’ is all icy, shivery peaks,’Total Strife Forever III’ is a grandiose and orchestral, and it could all quite easily fit onto the Clint Martinez soundtrack for an existential drama involving a flawed mission to Jupiter.
Here all of Doyle’s ideas seem fully formed and meld together perfectly, which given the ground they cover is quite the achievement. Innovative, cerebral and yet totally accessible, ‘Total Strife Forever’ is an incredibly impressive record.
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