Review: William Doyle – Springs Eternal

Artwork for William Doyle's Springs Eternal album

Springs Eternal is a difficult third album not because of any creative drought on William Doyle’s part, but due to an honest fragility.

Live4ever was sat in the pub one night with a friend talking about the current state of the world and, as you do, its forever wars, the multiple permacrises and the generally shit time most people are having.

‘It’s quite easy,’ the friend said. ‘I’ve just developed the art of not giving a fuck anymore.’

This may seem a little fatalistic, but it’s advice which could work for some – and one of those to benefit might be William Doyle, formerly of the Mercury-nominated East India Youth but now, with Springs Eternal, three albums into a solo career which has never been less than fascinating.

Confronted by the gloom cycle at an existential level, William Doyle’s response was to frame it within the context of his art: ‘One remedy I’ve found for the feeling that the end of time is hurtling towards us is in the refuge that songs and albums can offer me. Songs are rooms in which one has the ability to have their sense of time pleasurably distorted.’

Put that way, it’s hard to disagree but juxtaposing pleasure with the apocalypse in music feels like a trick, even for an artist whose previous albums, Your Wilderness Revisited and Great Spans of Muddy Time, had brimmed with hard to express self exploration.

William Doyle has continued to employ a cerebral approach to soundscape creation that meant, ‘Most of the songs are in the first-person, but rather than being autobiographical, I was trying to imagine hyperreality versions of myself’.

Listening to someone process something they feel so acutely has the obvious potential risk of dislocation, but although most of the songs here are more complex in structure than the past, there’s a directness for example to the likes of Surrender Yourself and Relentless Melt, one that in tone straddles a clutch of modes.

The latter contains some of William Doyle’s numerous references to water, and specifically flooding, tangential nods to both climate change and the Tsunami effect of things we feel we need to be preoccupied with.

The people who may or may not be the person singing do battle with demons both real and imagined throughout, none more so than on Soft To The Touch, a track which seems to flow in cycles whilst its main protagonist slips closer towards an oblivion.

In many ways a desperately sad poem, its instrumentation – cold hearted synths, cheesy organ presets, a scrambling, almost sarcastic guitar – add a sense of melodrama, the humdrum soundtracked by a jumbled clutch of random ingredients.

Time and again the biggest test for the listener is where to comfortably be: opener Garden Of Morning begins acapella before building to a taught mass of impressive symphonics.

‘Waiting to go feral/longing to rewild’, William Doyle sings, needing the comfort of inevitable change. Now In Motion by contrast finds interaction not with things but with people, a spotty, soaked funk giving rise to the belief that, ‘Every look is the look of obsession forming’.

The closing stages offer, if possible, a deeper immersion, the droning ambience of A Long Life obscuring much, whilst closer Because Of A Dream is an acoustic ballad on which the singer adopts the form of a ghost, a sprit whose omnipresence is a deeper curse than it might first seem.

Springs Eternal is a difficult third album not because of any creative drought on William Doyle’s part, but due to an honest fragility whose presence on record is admirable.

Mastering the art of not giving a fuck would, you imagine, not stop him from making records with such a fine grain as this; you suspect nothing could.

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