The enigmatic beauty of nature has launched a thousand pieces of art. From Monet’s back garden to Malick’s fields of wheat, we’ve often found inspiration in the wilds that we often had no hand in. But for the drolly charismatic broadcaster Jonathan Meades, beauty can also be found in what we create; the cities, towns, suburbs. Sloping terrace houses and cobbled streets to him have as much importance as picturesque valleys.
It’s a view shared by William Doyle who, with ‘Your Wilderness Revisited’, pays homage to what’s right under our noses; the wilderness of concrete, pebbledash and snickets. A shared view so strongly that William not only fills the video for ‘Nobody Else Will Tell You’ with nods to Meades’ documentaries, but also actually samples him on the record.
William is also someone who bursts with ideas. His two records under the moniker East India Youth were dizzying pieces of work that flicked between Berlin Bowie-esque krautrock and chart-friendly electro pop, each turn pulled off with such skill and confidence that it all managed to fit together somehow.
But even though that moniker might have gone, his ability to conduct these ideas in such an incredible way is still very much in effect. The references to the likes of Meades and Brian Eno, who has a lovely feature on ‘Design Guide’, never come across as an attempt to show off his cultural capital. In lesser hands it might do, a chance to appear holier-than-thou, but William balances his idiosyncrasies perfectly with the base human emotions that are at the heart of all these songs. Because, at its core, this is simply an album about growing up in the suburbs.
‘Your Wilderness Revisited’ might be his most accessible record to date. The worlds William conjures, of broken fences, stretched out washing lines and lustreless blocks of flats, is one that’s all around us. On ‘Design Guide’, in his beautifully crystalline vocals he sings, “I stood still in the cool of the evening / Watched the sun as it skimmed the horizon / Every house silhouetted in unison,” evoking that suburban feeling of removal from the bustling city but also the discovery of your own kind of beauty.
And while there may be references to wider academic concepts about space and architecture across the record, it’s there for us to stumble upon if we want to, not forced into the listener’s face. William wants us to find our own experiences in amongst his. Because these songs are personal, but also open to us; the wonderful ‘Blue Remembered’ is brimming with the rush of escapism that’s clearly rooted in his own experiences but easy to attach your own to it.
William Doyle is unafraid to bring intellectualism into pop while never letting it feel like an exercise. And ‘Your Wilderness Revisited’ shows that he’s kept his knack for mixing the two into a heady blend that’s easy to get lost in.
What is constant are its dazzling, spontaneous qualities.
On ‘Great Spans of Muddy Time’, William Doyle is letting down his guard, leaning into his eccentricities and paying homage to… Monty Don?
Friday, friday, gotta get the best new music this week on Friday…
Lifted from his upcoming album ‘Great Spans Of Muddy Time’.