Release Date: Sep 27, 2011
Record label: Kompakt
Coracle is the kind of album that you not only want to tell people about, but you have to tell people about. Any future conversations, irrelevant of social situation or participants, will be supplemented by an impromptu advertisement on behalf of Walls. It’s compulsory. The problem with this - ignoring the social suicide of commandeering the attention of grieving relatives for an enthusiastic pitch - is that after the initial “You have to buy this record, it is fantastic!”, there isn’t much else you can say, at least with assurance.
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.
London-based [a]Walls[/a] duo Sam Willis and Alessio Natalizia put journos in floatation tanks to experience their new album ‘[b]Coracle[/b]’; it was a cunning ruse for a record whose luminous soundscapes are at once alien yet familiar, adding hazy heartbeat rhythms to their seductive take on ambient masters past and present such as [b]Brian Eno[/b], [b]Harmonia[/b] and [b]Tim Hecker[/b]. Opener ‘[b]Into Our Midst[/b]’ proceeds from a throbbing bassline and gracefully wobbling synths reminiscent of Caribou’s ‘[b]Sun[/b]’, and ‘[b]Sunporch[/b]’’s proto-electro glide is simply beautiful. So good it’ll make you marvel at your complacency in not buying a return ticket out of your mum’s vagina.[i]Alex Denney[/i] .
Walls' debut was too ephemeral, and it wasn't just the swift running length. It felt facile—like a series of first take heart-gush melodies masquerading as something more complex beneath a slew of effects and slight audio distortions. Countless listens in, it refused to adhere, to negotiate any space beyond its superficial pleasantness. Now, for their second album in as many years for Kompakt, Coracle, the duo—Alessio Natalizia and Sam Willis—have returned with what feels like a noticeably more coherent and muscular approach to ambient techno-rock.Which is certainly not to insinuate that, from the surface, the duo have changed all that much.
Walls' eponymous 2010 debut album was praised for applying lo-fi pop structures to the kind of slo-mo beats that aligned them with their peers on Kompakt. The duo of Alessio Natalizia (Banjo or Freakout) and Sam Willis (Allez-Allez) have built on those promising beginnings by stretching Walls' sound on Coracle, principally by scraping away all the fuzz and upping the production values. Tracks like "Burnt Sienna" and "Soft Cover People" from the band's debut album flirted with the kind of filmy arrangements that chillwave was founded on, although their disposition toward harder dance music took them far enough away from the genre to escape too many comparisons.
If you’re like me and have been paying rapt attention to the gradual evolution of Animal Collective’s music over the past decade, you might have a hard time pointing to exactly what changed between Strawberry Jam and Merriweather Post Pavilion to account for the enormous surge in popularity and influence the band has achieved. (Hipster Runoff maven Carles calls Animal Collective the “definitive band of the Era of Internet Indie Music Discovery. ”) Maybe it’s that the facepainted, primitivist group ritual vibe of their live sets serves as an indie rock counterpart to middle America’s recent embrace of rave in the so-called electro of DeadMau5 and Skrillex.
Formless grooves and elegant ambience from the London-based duo. Ian Wade 2011 The beauty of WALLS is that there are none. Musically speaking, at least. There’s nothing to lean against, or prop yourself up on, with the London-based pair of Italian Alessio Natalizia and Mancunian Sam Willis, who also have day jobs with Banjo or Freakout and the DJ duo/podcast purveyors Allez Allez respectively.
I'm old enough to remember the point in the mid-90s when music journalists at ostensibly rock oriented publications (NME,Melody Maker, Vox, Select; the ones that don't really exist anymore) started to try and grapple critically with the proliferation of people making borderline experimental dance music which threatened to, and in some cases spectacularly did, crossover to a rock/indie audience. Orbital, Chemical Brothers, Leftfield, Future Sound Of London, Plaid, Mouse On Mars, Autechre, and others whose names escape me, were praised for their music but often criticised for being “faceless techno duos”, as if music journalists at the time couldn't quite get to grips with anyone whose career managed to exists sans a stylist. Perhaps thanks to Aphex Twin's visual headfuckery and Boards Of Canada's outright lies regarding their provenance at the turn of the millenium, we've moved on a little now, and the fact that I have no idea what Alessio Natalizia and Sam Willis, who are the faceless techno duo known as Walls, look like, barely musters mention, let alone concern.