It's fitting, if presumably entirely coincidental, that Walls is being released just after a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland grounded most of the airplanes in Europe. Because large parts of the eponymous debut album from London-based duo Sam Willis and Alessio Natalizia sounds not unlike Brian Eno's Music for Airports overshadowed by something brewing overhead; something that could, on closer inspection, be a shadow of the sort of panoramic post-rock proffered by the Icelandic Sigur Ros. Or maybe Graham Coxon's guitar solo from Blur's "This Is a Low"—the one that felt like a gale billowing up the Thames—stretched out yet more subdued, so that you feel as if you're glimpsing it whipping around the edges from the eye of the storm, rather than being caught in the full force.
Of course, concepts of coincidence have long played a role in Eno's music and, by their own admission, inspire Walls' modus operandi as well. It's also informed the work of Walls' most obvious forbears—the more ambient electronic members of the Krautrock canon such as Neu! and Harmonia—whose music and Willis has championed as one-half of DJ and blog duo Allez-Allez, and which has also had a profound influence on Natalizia's Banjo Or Freakout solo project.
The pair are linked by more than just impeccably cool record collections, however. Walls seem to have an almost intuitive psychic bond that manifests itself in the interplay between Willis' synths and Natalizia's treated guitar drones, sparking all manner of associative and lateral thinking. Opener "Burnt Sienna" sees a gentle beat slowly emerge from a fuzzy haze, yet it's what emerges around the bones of the track that most captivates the attention, little ideas and odd synthetic melodies that seem like loose ends or random subplots in the album's overall story.
It's a feeling that persists throughout the album's all-too-brief half-hour duration: The music seems like it could go in any number of directions, but is simply dictated by what seems right at the time. So "Cylopean Remains" has Natalizia's wordless sighs—the element that most recalls the aforementioned Sigur Ros—slowly becoming submerged in a soupy analogue bubblebath, before what sounds like footsteps lead the listener into "Soft Cover People," where a guitar line is refracted through prismatic electronics before Natalizia's voice reappears again. Walls is like that: It's an album of emotional ebbs and flows rather than a fiery eruption, yet it's also one that will gently sweep you off your feet and take your head into the clouds.
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Tracklist: Walls - Walls 01. Burnt Sienna
02. Hang Four
03. A Virus Waits!
04. Cylopean Remains
05. Soft Cover People
06. Strawberry Sect
08. Austerlitz Wide Open
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