Released just a year after East India Youth's distinctive indie electronic debut, the Mercury Prize-nominated Total Strife Forever, Culture of Volume presents another blend of Eno-inspired synth compositions and thoughtful electropop songs. However, where the former was mostly instrumentals with a few songs, Culture of Volume offers the reverse for a poppier and more melodic, but equally hypnotic and well-crafted sophomore LP. While East India Youth had been essentially a solitary project for multi-instrumentalist William Doyle, he brought in Graham Sutton to mix this time, George Hider recorded Doyle's vocals, and Hannah Peel provided acoustic strings. Their work polishes an adventurous landscape where, without changing the record's pensive tone, tempos, complexity, and pitch range shift regularly. This variability begins right from the contrasting opening two tracks. "The Juddering" serves as an instrumental takeoff, both as the album's opener and in the sense of sound; its slow-building, mechanical, turbine effect mingles pitches and noise until a simple melody coalesces. It's followed by the sparse song "End Result" ("The end result is not what was in mind"), melodic and vocal-led with welcoming, blunt bell tones. The record never settles into a full-on catchy, Pet Shop Boys-type affair, or settles in at all, though moments are remindful of '80s British dance-pop, such as the trance-infused "Beaming White" with a far-reaching, Erasure-like melody. Instead, despite its melody-friendly pop tendencies, expect the unexpected, like the over ten-minute "Manner of Words" with its musical metaphors ("Turn this dull roar down/I hear it all the time/And I know now/It soon becomes a shrill clarion") and three-and-a-half-minute droning coda. The instrumental, industrial-influenced dance track "Entirety" enters the album halfway through with thumping four on the floor only to lead into the high romantic drama of the beats-free "Carousel," which uses space and slowly built tension to underscore a dynamic melody. What ties the songs together is the unresolved tone and unbalance itself, from thoughtful, uneasy lyrics ("A crooked frame circling us/We strained to learn just how it turned round"), to sharp-edged synth sounds, lopsided rhythms, and noise effects even on the softer tunes. The result is a constant if ambient-tinted instability and sense of epicness. As a whole, Culture of Volume is an intense and fascinating album, one that leaves sequel-like anticipation for what else East India Youth may have in store.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson