Words by Mike Emerson
I first saw East India Youth at Beacons festival under the recommendation that he was going to be huge. I’d heard a couple of things prior and thought they were OK, but I hadn’t really clocked onto this magnificence everyone talked of. I thought that this was my chance – a wondrously soggy day in the yorkshire hills, and an artist that truly knocks me off my feet. That did actually happen, but it wasn’t through this guy. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but I was all kinds of battered, and the whole overpacked tent/no view/trance beats thing just wasn’t sitting well with me. Another hype artist, I guess. Fastforward six months, and he has an album out – the hype having evolved into critical acclaim. Surely not, I thought? Him again? As my mother always said – people deserve second chances. (She also said that our hamster had died when I’m pretty sure she just sold it, so let’s not believe everything).
I arrived at the recently revamped Gullivers having just completed a major U-turn in my expectancy levels for the night. I listened to said album (sarcastically titled Total Strife Forever) for the first time ever just a few hours before doors, and frankly, I was stunned. The trance beats I so deeply loathed that day were all kinds of brilliant; the vocals pure, the structure impeccable. I gave it a second listen. And a third, and a fourth. Penny. Drop. I was late, sure, but I finally understood why people appreciated him this much. Hell, John Doran formed a brand new label just to get his music out there. We push through the crowd then, eager to affirm my newly found (and oft rapidly fleeting) love for Mr Doyle. The people directly around us make for quite the observation, one girl sporting a wrist choc full of ibiza wristbands with a glow stick in her pocket. I mean, I know things get pretty dancey, but really? Each to their own.
He comes on to much applause after a notable wait, set up with a flightcase full of keys and a laptop, and a guitar strapped to his side. It’s like a modern day Poppins Van Dyke, and he certainly looks up for it. Shimmers of synth slowly trickle upward as he begins with ‘Glitter recession’, a good three minutes of prolonged build up blowing out into beautiful noise. Everything feels overtly loud, yet measured at the same time. It signals his intent for the evening as he wastes no time bustling through to the second track. ‘Looking for Someone‘ is – I think – an older single, and utilises much more guitar and softer vocals. It’s clearly a firm favourite amongst the crowd, yet personally I think it not only stands out tonight as the weakest track of the set, but it also leaps out on the record too. It’s interesting, yet it doesn’t really buy into the same vibe as the rest.
Whilst there’s little audience interaction from Doyle, he does seem to know that the crowd is there. This comes across more intelligent than contrived, and I believe there is definitely a perception he is aiming to embed. Throughout the night, he thrashes his head as close to the table as can be, then jaunting over to his guitar to bring out some rather enthusiastic leans. It works well with his sound, and we see it really peak when he reaches his superspeed power couplet of ‘Dripping Down‘ and ‘Heaven, How Long?‘ They’re probably the two best tracks he has at the minute, an definitely the two most well known. The former is faultless, vocals peaking perfectly for the first time in the night. Towards its close, the intersection into Heaven is so sweetly exectuted that they almost feel like two sides of one story. Heaven does come with a few issues though.
The slow, pulsating start works brilliantly, toning things down a little at the midway point of the night. As the vocals come in they sound slightly too loud, something confirmed as soon as the chorus hits. Granted, there’s no space to hold back here, yet the title wail overthrows the backing and then some. Just as you think he’s got it under control, the laptop has a little paddy and cuts the music out for a good 5 seconds. He is obviously unamused as he gesticulates wildly, and after a brief reappearance, it disappears again. In an attempt to redeem, he re-syncs the beats and grabs onto the keyboard quite viciously. He’s whipping his guitar all over the place, prancing like springbok and flailing greatly. A few erratic hair flops later, he reappears with said guitar, keyboard having now fell to the floor, his face donning a bleeding bust lip. It’s about as good a recovery as I’ve ever seen, and the crowd seem to agree. Hardware, eh?
There’s a beautiful piano song to follow, using all manners of loops and layers, and just as you think he’s pulled it all the way back into serenity, final song ‘Hinterland‘ bulldozes in with one of the best breakdown moments of this decade. It grows with bleeps and beeps, double-time drum hits working their way up to something huge. Rather than go all out maximalist, it drops into this outstandingly brilliant baseline which warrants nothing less than hands in the air. It is a cold night though, there isn’t a bar upstairs here, and just one track ago we were getting all ready for bed. It’s this massive juxtaposition of sounds & atmosphere which can be slightly difficult to get immersed in, but maybe that’s just the way I am and the day I’d already had. Let it be said though, it is also this juxtaposition of sounds & atmosphere which makes East India Youth one of the most unique artists around. I should’ve listened earlier. He is going to be huge.