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William Doyle Defines Intimate at Manchester’s Deaf Institute [Show Review]

The hypnotic sounds of William Doyle filled Manchester Deaf Institute on Sunday. Del Pike was on hand and wrote down his thoughts here…



Will Doyle, press photo

Following on from our chat for V13 recently (read the full interview here), Del Pike caught up with William Doyle as he nears the end of his tour on a spookily quiet Sunday night in Manchester.

The Deaf Institute, for those who’ve never been, is the most atmospheric venue on nights like this, evoking an immediate sense of Victorian Manchester with its beautiful architecture, deep red curtains, and fascinating wallpapers. Will told us before the gig that he had been moved from the main stage to the smaller Music Hall downstairs as only a small crowd was anticipated, but the room filled pretty quickly, and the coziness of the closer room added to the intimacy of the night.

Support tonight comes from Private Service, a one-man sound machine, described on Spotify as “Isolated Electronic Brutalism”. The artist is shrouded in mystery, and all we know is that he is based in Manchester. From behind a bank of technology, a smorgasbord of cables, knobs and switches emanates a sound that is caught somewhere between John Carpenter’s soundtrack to Escape from Precinct 13 and an apocalyptic future of industrial decay. At times deafening but constantly captivating, this was an unexpected treat from a guy who resembled Killer Bob from Twin Peaks until he finally looked out and smiled at the end of his set. Utterly Mesmerising noise terror from beginning to end.

There are moments of noise terror in William Doyle’s set, but they are more sporadic. Joined onstage by collaborator / Cellist / Saxophonist Alex Painter, Will cuts the figure of an Everyman. There are no airs or graces, nor pretentious, just a good-humoured guy capable of creating the most arresting sound collages one minute and slices of pure pop the next. It is perhaps this natural enigma that helped him to become a shortlisted Mercury Prize artist in 2014 under his previous alter-ego, East India Youth. Since then, he has collaborated with Brian Eno and self-produced a catalogue of sublime albums under his name, including his recent Springs Eternal, which is the main focus of tonight’s set.

Starting with the album opener, “Garden of the Morning,” it is immediately clear that William Doyle’s live experience is a very different beast from his recorded fare. The addition of Alex Painter on Cello allows much interplay between the two artists, often almost duelling between Cello and guitar in a Deliverance style.

Will’s vocals are unique, with a far-expanding range that is often breath-taking but instantly recognisable to his fans. Those fans are devoted too, and scanning the crowd, it is apparent by the mass lip-synching that they cling to his every word.

His words are powerful at times, listen to the lyrics to “Cannot Unsee” and despite the jaunty tune, there is a dark message of worldwide trauma that spews from the mass media. Will tells us how he became so emotional singing this at his last gig and shows us his “Free Palestine” badge beneath his guitar strap before launching in.

A diversion into 2019s “Nobody Else Will Tell You” from his extraordinarily good Your Wilderness Revisited album shows the diversity of his work, as does the belting standout “And Everything Changed (But I Feel Alright)” from 2021’s epic Great Spans of Muddy Time album.

Will’s banter between songs is always funny and belies the often-serious nature of the lyrics, creating an alternative view of the maudlin-titled “Short Illness” by linking it to the news coverage of unintentionally comical TV ghost-botherer Derek Acorah’s death. “He died of a short Illness” being quite a surreal statement. A voice in the crowd repeats loudly “That’s deep!” which kind of throws everyone, including Will. This reminds him of a fan shouting “Mary Loves Dick” repeatedly during this oft-told anecdote. The confused Will later realises that this referred to Derek Acorah’s classic afterlife encounter with a highwayman, Dick Turpin. The straight retelling of the song from the album culminates in a frantic wall of noise that could have been torn from the soundtrack of David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

“Castawayed”, from the new album is a highlight tonight as the song which is tender on the album turns into one of those aforementioned duels between guitar and cello, bordering on the noise terror of Private Service.

The three most accessible songs from the album, “Surrender Yourself”, “Relentless Melt” and the single, “Now in Motion” are aired and all given a slightly different, more experimental delivery than their recorded versions, but still have the audience swaying and singing along.

It’s an excellent set, made so by the intimacy of the room and the closeness of the two artists on stage who play off each other perfectly to create an exciting show, moving and at times hypnotic. Will is already planning to record his next album for a quick release and we can only guess what direction that will take, for now check out Springs Eternal on Tough Love Records and try and catch one of his gigs. They are as entertaining as they are unique.

To pick up your copy of Springs Eternal, head over to the Tough Love Records Website here.

William Doyle ‘Springs Eternal’ Album Artwork

William Doyle ‘Springs Eternal’ Album Artwork

Del Pike is a University lecturer in Film and Media in Liverpool (UK). He writes film, music, art, literature and culture articles and reviews for a number of websites. Del loves nothing more than snuggling down in a dark cinema, getting sweaty at  a live gig or drifting off late at night to a good book. He loves cats. He enjoys promoting new talent online so please say hi if you have something to show.