Thursday, May 13, 2010

Walls - Walls


Kompakt Records.

SCQ Rating: 77%

As far as techno labels go, one would be hard-pressed to find a roster with higher quality standards, artist for artist, than Kompakt. While producers like Thomas Fehlmann, The Field and Gui Boratto represent their domineering crossover relevance, Kompakt’s lesser-celebrated records, which commonly fall between the cracks of those titan’s releases, often say far more about the state of progressive electronica. So it’s curious that the latest under-the-radar act to bear Kompakt’s logo, Walls, stakes their sonic trademarks to electronic-rock fault-lines with a debut that might be the German imprint’s most accessible hybrid to date.

Born through a matter-of-fact heartbeat and humid synths that hiss as though breaking free of shifting soil, Walls announces itself like an earthquake clenching its plates under civilization. We’ve heard variations on this sonic eruption before which is why, at the three minute mark, ‘Burnt Sienna’ breaks like a phoenix through the layers of active decay with a simple dance hook that at once switches gears while placing the track’s varied trajectories in odd synergy. Now that they have our attention, the London-based duo of Alessio Natallzia and Sam Willis stretch their fuzz-strewn electronics into varied song-structures, some loose like the airy keys and resonant guitar of ‘Soft Cover People’, others tight and punchy like the drum-machine kraut of ‘Gaberdine’. At its most abstract (as on ‘Austerlitz Wide Open’), Walls evokes the netherworld psyche of Black Dice’s Beaches & Canyons while, at its grooviest (the highlight ‘Hang Four’), Natallzia and Willis use a doped-out disco beat to pulsate some reverb-drenched guitar and frantic effect-loops.

Although executed on a far more organic level, Walls has Kompakt’s M.O. all over it, employing different speeds to create boldly complex electronic rhythms. That’s just this debut’s skeletal surface though, as what makes Walls such an enigmatic listen is trying to decipher which gears are pushing the compositions forward. There are copious amounts of haze but none of it is excused as smoke and mirrors, they fade techno trademarks in and out of focus and even throw vocals into the mix – all without frustrating the listener. By allowing the majority of their hooks to lay camouflaged in this tangled half-hour debut, Walls look eager to pave their own M.O. for being Kompakt’s only electronic jam-band. All the power to them.

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