Haunting melodies and thoughtful percussion straddle enchanting overlays of piano and strings to guide the listener through its tale of suburban life. Doyle's gentle reading of the introductory lyrics lead to a sonorous exhortation for freedom of thought and movement. It offers hope and warning, and resonates with any of us who lived a guarded life in new home construction where feelings and painful emotions were not to be shared, but sequestered. Simply brilliant work.
I wasn’t born in the English suburbs, but I did do most of my growing up there. The most formative years of my life were spent in an end-terrace house tucked away down a small path at the bottom of a cul-de-sac, on a residential development called South Millers Dale. My bedroom window there looked out onto suburbia: houses, gardens, parked cars and winding labyrinths of roads, while the other bedroom window looked onto a mesh of woodland, as if we were on the very outskirts.
I’d moved to this house with my mother after my father died. We were uprooted from the world of the 1930s semi-detached houses of my earlier youth – all pebbledash and grit – and plunged into newer builds of red bricks and double glazing. It was a stark change of scenery, and a strange environment for a 13 year old to process loss and experience grief. Something about the modern suburb’s artificiality, with its planned and plotted nature and its winding, serpentine roads, seemed to jar when overlaid with something so human as grief.
After a complicated introduction to this environment, I slowly started to explore every inch of it, if for no other reason than to quell the boredom and loneliness of being there. One early walk in particular had a startling effect on me. Nothing particularly special had occurred during this walk, but by simply travelling to another development, to a new set of roads and houses, and then coming home via a different route, my world felt suddenly shifted when I returned to my house. Back in my bedroom, it was as if someone had moved every object by half an inch. I felt a strange newness.
It was from this moment that I stopped looking at the suburbs as though they were merely banal or drab – the almost psychedelic effect it had on me couldn’t be ignored any longer. I felt an opening up within me, and I realised that these explorations could teach me something about myself, and offer me new perspectives and ideas.
This creative blossoming resulted in me beginning to record music in my bedroom, interpreting my environment into sound and words. It was a practice I’ve made a centrepiece of my life ever since. In that house, my young mind floated freely in a chaotic mess of joy and sadness.
We moved out of this house after seven years and left for London. I’d not been back to it for a long time, until in December 2016, while visiting friends at home for Christmas. I took a walk in the woodland behind the house, surprised to find new pathways in what was once an overgrown wilderness. At one point I got a clear view of the back of my old house, a perspective of it that I’d never seen before. I stared at it for some time. The feelings of being there, of the untethered spirit of creativity, of the way the sun moved through it, of the shape of the condensation in the windows, all of those things came flooding back. I wanted to capture some of those things in this song, as a reminder of those times and a lesson to keep intact what I’d discovered in that house: of the mystery of creating and of being alive.
and so everything fell upon me
but in a sense
I felt it cement my place in it all,
I opened up and bloomed
from a house that is no longer mine to behold
one residence wrapped in ivy.
end terrace life, tilting slightly.
the shape of grief is condensed
between the glazing that framed every scene
immense and excellent mess
that was floating / wild / free
it’s no golden age,
or golden longing.
just iron cast, monolithic
reminders of the lack of a tether
as light as the days were alive
the open fire
the flames of creation
the flames of a lessening dread
released June 29, 2018
Written, recorded and mixed in bedrooms by William Doyle
Additional engineering and production by George Hider
Drums by Fabian Prynn at 4AD Studios
Saxophone by Alex Painter