Great Spans of Muddy Time
Tough Love Records
CD, vinyl and digital
When Louder than War first took an interest in William Doyle back in 2011 it’s hard to imagine there were too many people imagining that the Doyle and the Fourfathers album review (a Decent album that is worth digging out now and again) would be the first of many articles that different writers on this site would pen for the next ten years centred around the main man William Doyle. Keith Goldhanger reviews his new album.
Gig reviews, interviews, album reviews as EAST INDIA YOUTH and now William Doyle has given us a second album under his own name that complements everything he’s been doing that has been of such a high standard that not too many other artists under the age of thirty (maybe thirty one) can boast. We could go on about all the tours under his belt, the worst and best show we saw him play within 12 hours of each other at Glastonbury in 2014 which we were told was the day after he’d just got back from a show in Moscow and the day before he performed Turn Away live on the telly on that platform over by the Park Stage. Possibly the same year as the Mercury nomination but not the same year we saw him one wet Thursday night down The Old Blue Last.
We could go on and on about all that (OK we have) but we’re here today to concentrate on the fabulously titled Great Spans of Muddy Time, an album that’s noisy, harsh, anthemic, sweet yet also comforting to listen to. This is the result of Williams angelic voice smoothing over the consequences of a major equipment malfunction during the making of the album and providing us with a fabulous forty minutes of music to last us until the next one (and even longer).
If the East India Youth albums were William toying with Eno inspired head nodding pop songs that at times had the crowds inside festival dance tents swelling to bursting point and previous release Your Wilderness was more Bowie in suburban England mowing the lawn than Bowie in Berlin at three O’clock in the morning then at times this 2021 release evokes memories of those long coat wearing days at Cabaret Voltaire shows in 1981 that were full of people attempting to look cool with a king size menthol cigarette sticking out of the side of our mouths.
Opener, I Need To Keep You in my Life pulls us in slowly and someone mentions Sigur Ros being so much better if the vocals were as great as this.
And Everything Changed (But I feel Alright) arrives and is the most conventional song on the album and one of the most beautiful songs we’ve heard William sing. With sweeping synths a sing a long chorus and the only guitar solo on the album it’s as great as anything we’ve heard him do. Arms in the air stuff.
It wouldn’t be a William Doyle album without the odd instrumental. Somewhere Totally Else would fit on Mercury Rev’s Deserters Songs if it were a tad shorter.
Shadowtackling is where it starts getting a bit 1981 Industrial. That was when Industrial meant something different than what it does today. A superb noise that made us get our (Cabaret Voltaire) Voice Of America album out again.
Who Cares is a dreamy heavenly couple of minutes and we’re beginning to notice the lack of any big bass drum on this. Nothing like that is needed here, this is more lie on the floor stuff.
Nothing at All gets us sitting up. This could be Marc Almond singing with Blancmange during an early evening performance at a New Romantic club. Analog beats and simple synths make this one of the most gorgeous pop songs he’s written. Nothing too complicated here, a tune the listener doesn’t feel has been overworked and like most of the album has it’s slight imperfections but is held together by the soothing voice that allows the listener to soak in each moment without being disturbed by the soothing dreamy synths in the back ground.
“I was aware that time was limited/ And that I’d have to keep it brief/ But then the words came out in all the wrong orders/ The rest were jammed behind my teeth“ – Nothing at all
We’re back in experimental mode with Rainfalls, or so we think until his voice turns this into something very different the longer it goes on for.
New Uncertainties is Seconds too Late era Cabaret Voltaire again (Hopefully you already know this stuff and are happy for the reminder. If not, then look them starting here) .
St Giles Hall – Strings, loops, angelic voice …that kind of stuff.
Semi Bionic is another gorgeous tune that contains the harshest electronics on the album providing backing for what is without doubt the best song on the album. This could have been a great opener for the album however that’s not to criticise the arrangement of these tracks as the whole thing ebbs and flows in a very agreeable way.
A Forgotten Film is another change of pace if there could be such a thing as ‘pace’ for the first half of the song and we’re beginning to remind ourselves what The Human League used to sound like.
Theme From Muddy Time we could call the title track because it has the words Muddy and Time in the title. The Album title Great Spans Of Muddy Time comes from something said by TV Gardener Monty Dom. A bloke we’re all meant to know. We don’t so we googled his name and apparently he used this phrase as a description of his depression that William not only liked the sound of but related to the phrase and decided was well worth using. Monty might be a good bloke from what we found. His garden looks magnificent and as anyone knows, decent garden equals a decent mind.
Closing track (a Sea of thoughts behind it) is a respectable wave goodbye until our paths cross again kind of tune. End credits from an inspiring film we’ve just been watching that we know we’ll watch again. No beats again and as it ends the temptation for the listener to go back and do it all over again is overwhelming.
This is an album for people who like experimental electronic music and beautiful songs. There’s nothing too harsh on this yet it’s noisy and slightly unconventional. It’s the sound of a liberated William Doyle, no longer fighting the perfections we are used to hearing in his work and not being afraid of turning the dials up to almost distorted levels before adding his voice that hold all the music together. It’s is Lovely album made for lovely people who want to carry on feeling lovely.
Photo Credit: Ryan MacPhail