TOUGH LOVE records

WILLIAM DOYLE - Great Spans of Muddy Time LP (col. vinyl)

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It’s difficult to comprehend how William Doyle is still in his twenties. It’s nearing a decade since he handed a CD-R demo to the Quietus co-founder John Doran at a gig, who loved it so much he set up a label to release Doyle’s debut EP (as East India Youth). A debut album, Total Strife Forever, followed in 2014, as did a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize. A year later, Doyle was signed to XL, touring the world and about to release his second album – all by the age of 25.

It would be another four years before Doyle returned with his third full album, and the first under his own name (though he self-released four ambient and instrumental projects in the meantime). A work of enormous scope, ambition and detail, 2019’s Your Wilderness Revisited received ecstatic reviews, with Line of Best Fit calling it “a dazzlingly beautiful triumph of intention” and Metro declaring it an album not only of the year, but “of the century”.

Great Spans of Muddy Time arrives just over a year later, in spring 2021, as Doyle turns 30. In many ways it is the antithesis to Your Wilderness Revisited: Doyle’s unique exploration of pop, art-rock, ambient and idiosyncratic compositions – married with a voice that deftly glides from tender restraint to soaring peaks – remains, but it’s rawer and less polished now. “It was liberating and felt like a nice tonic to how long the last album took and how much blood, sweat and tears went into it,” he says.

This new album was born from accident but pushed forward by instinct. After his hard drive failed, many of the pieces Doyle had been working on were saved only on tape. “I’d been running things out of the computer and into a TASCAM 414 tape machine to achieve a more saturated sound, to mess with the pitch control, and generally just transport whatever I was working on into a different realm,” he says. “I wanted tactility, and to allow for error to enter the process.”

What came from this was a sense of letting go, and an embrace of the wonky and jagged. “Instead of feeling a loss that I could no longer craft these pieces into flawless ‘Works of Art’, I felt intensely liberated that they had been set free from my ceaseless tinkering.” Doyle felt a change in the way he approached, and thought about, making music. These unedited, often improvised pieces, free from fine-tuning, plunged him into uncharted waters.