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Walls – Coracle review

Walls’ self-titled debut set was one of the surprise success stories of 2010, a curiously atmospheric set that somehow felt both gloriously old-fashioned and unashamedly current. Dreamed up by Allez Allez man Sam Willis and Alessio Natalizia (Banjo Or Freakout), the first Walls album gently tip-toed between krautrock flavoured dark ambience, crackly electronica and occasional bursts of pin-sharp beauty. It was arresting stuff, all told – downtempo music that sidestepped clichés in favour of altogether more interesting sonic visions.

Here the London-based production partnership continue their rapid ascent with a second impressive full-length. This time round, they seem to have opted for a far more bright and breezy approach, largely giving the darker themes an elbow in favour of dreamy compositions that could easily be described as Balearic. That’s not to suggest that they’ve abandoned their founding principles, though; Coracle is every bit as experimental, daring and otherworldly as its predecessor, it just carries a more positive message.

Opener “Into Our Midst” is a good case in point. The backwards guitars and classic ambient noises recall the long forgotten Orb/Robert Fripp collaboration FFWD>>, but its steady pulse and quietly bubbling electronics evoke memories of Kompakt’s best slow trance releases. Throw in some discordant harmonizing and you’ve got something that’s more aesthetically pleasing than strangely unsettling. Elsewhere, there are more moments of divine inspiration. “Heat Haze” is hypnotic and blissful, all droning krautrock guitars (put, of course, through the mangler), pedal steel and drifting vocals, somehow drawn together by the most subtle of beats. “Sunporch” tiptoes towards the dancefloor impressively, adding the pair’s favoured guitars, pianos and wailing vocals to heavyweight Italo disco back end. It’s Kosmiche all right.

And so it goes on, variously referencing ambient, avant indie (think Animal Collective), wide-eyed electronica, cosmic disco and – texturally if not sonically – German techno. It’s an aural mix that impresses and inspires in equal measure, throwing up highlights with efficient regularity. “Raw Umber/Twilight” sounds like a chiming cosmic disco re-make of Bowie’s “Heroes” imagined by acid-fried musicians recalling a lost night with Terrence McKenna, whilst “Drunken Galleon” boasts so much simple beauty you’ll be hard-pressed not to raise a smile. Throughout, Coracle shuffles between sun-flecked Balearic beauty and quiet contemplation with consummate ease. It’s dreamy, out-there, odd and, at times, ecstatic. If you’re anything like us, it will make your heart sing.

Matt Anniss