Walls can be designed to either keep you out or to keep you in, but they’re as much reinforcements as they are barriers. Walls keep the ceiling from coming down or the harsh winds from rushing in. When Phil Spector’s patented compressed and overdriven wail was dubbed a “wall of sound”, it was because it sounded fierce, robust, and sturdy, a monolith of noise. The duo of Sam Willis and Alessio Natilzia, who just released their second album on Kompakt, named themselves Walls for reasons unknown. Their music is as billowy as the cloud-textured puffs adorning their album covers. On Coracle though, their sound is getting more fortified, though it is still miles away from being anchored, still, and resolute like that of a wall.
Walls, the band, tend to exhibit perplexing traits beyond their odd namesake. For one thing, their self-titled debut was near-impossible to seek out in a search engine without attaching the word “Kompakt” to one’s request, but Walls are more of a Kranky band than a Kompakt one. Even though their form of Pop is quite ambient (and gas-eous), there’s not quite enough Ambien in that ambient to fit them comfortably on one of Kompakt’s Pop Ambient kompilations, particularly considering the mobility of the new material on Coracle. Yet, despite, track names like “Ecstatic Truth” on the album, Walls’s music is hardly ecstatic enough to auto-gyrate all the bodies lining the club floors.
Coracle showcases a rare type of hybridity, one that is not only post-shoegazer like Natalizia’s much less successful Deerhunter-esque vocal tunes as Banjo or Freakout, but welcoming of sounds from post-rock, Moebius-bred kosmische krautrock, Balearic, Morr-style synthpop, and even Kompakt schaffel. Whereas Walls combed through a few different styles with the finesse of one of Willis’s DJ gigs as one half of Allez-Allez, Coracle flattens these stylistic interchanges into a more unified sound field, one that’s too smeared by the haze emitting off the incandescent neon beneath to make this referentiality the music’s main selling point.
It’s pretty rare terrain, even amidst a flood of this stuff on the market right now. In a world practically overdosing on a reverb, there’s scarcely a record where the synths actually act as the most grounded element, as they do in a song like “Sunporch”, where the cooing vocals are the most otherworldly studio element. On “Sunporch” though, the beats and synths don’t push, as they do in traditional techno; they frolic buoyantly in a world without formulas or deadlines.
With all the friendly fuzz abound, this reviewer can’t help but be reminded of the unsung early naughts outfit Casino Versus Japan, but with a less narcotic and temperate pulse. Also conversely to that group, Walls are less inclined to produce this template via the never-ending, hypnotic loop. They’re instead more open to taking their mixes to unexpected places with undetectable amalgamations of sound design. This tendency works out favourably for the most part, as in the ways in which “Heat Haze” breaks out from its insular preciousness into a blissful arpeggio that’s like early M83 with the compression and bombast held on layover from all the environmental fog. Yet, the nomadic strain of Walls does allow for a few moments which can lopside an otherwise consistent tune. The “Twilight” end of “Raw Umber/Twilight”, for example, feels more afterthought than entropy, less a resolution than an intrusion.
Even at their most off though, Walls are still “on” in terms of texture or timing or timbre. Coracle is by all means not just the sequel to Walls, but its true successor. While these Walls may not be the best form of protection, they do feel comforting and nurturing with their rudimentary structures surrounding you on Coracle.
- Multiple songs MySpace