Album of the Week: Walls - Urals

The final album from the ambient/krautrock/shoegaze-leaning electronic duo is a satisfying finish to their journey.

The final album from the ambient/krautrock/shoegaze-leaning electronic duo is a satisfying finish to their journey.

On film, the end of a trilogy usually produces an emotional climax followed by an element of closure that satiates all of the unanswered questions that have arisen throughout its three-course journey. However, in music, the end of a trilogy can tend to play out in a more frustrating and question raising manner. When LCD Soundsystem announced their split after three records, it devastated fans that thought it was just the beginning of an illustrious career. Jam City’s 'Earthly' mix trilogy ended with a beginning to a completely new chapter, a sonic collage pasted together to foreshadow the curveball of a record that came to be 'Dream A Garden'. UK duo Walls have formed their own musical trilogy with the decision that their latest studio album, ‘Urals’, will be their third and final full-length project.

Walls’ music has always sounded like the end of something – the soundtrack to the ending credits of a film as the final frame fades or the last conscious moments before falling asleep at night. Listening to 'Urals', it feels like the end of a trilogy in the more traditional way - a satisfying finish to their musical journey.

Sam Willis and Alessio Natalizia’s music together has always been expansive, bringing together elements of ambient, krautrock, and shoegaze to form ambitious instrumentals. But their final record is far-reaching in subject as well, named after the Ural Mountains, a several hundred million year old range that spans a large amount of Russia. Their first two records came out in quick succession in 2010 and 2011, and the work behind ‘Urals’ reflects the more extensive process as the end result of four years of work.

Having gone away and worked on other projects during that time, including a tribute to electronic pioneer Daphne Oram and being the label bosses behind the Kompakt imprint Ecstatic, it has only served to tighten up and refocus their sound. The patter of the staccato synth loop that centers opener and title track Urals show that this is a duo that knows exactly what they’re doing – each note sounding like a decisive footstep marching toward its final destination. There’s so much to unpack within the 38 minute running time, each track providing a clear focal pattern with side narratives weaving their way in and out, sometimes disappearing from view before you’ve had a chance to fully admire them. 'Urals' is a geological journey as well as a musical one, as three tracks in, Altai moves us from Russia to the Altai Mountains in Central Asia where the pace quickens with echoing, quietened drums keeping a steadily fast beat.

By the time closer Radiance comes around, it feels like the definitive end-point of something. The seven minute soundscape drapes analogue drones and gusts of static noise around each other to craft a suitably melancholic atmosphere for a final goodbye. While they were only releasing records for five years, ‘Urals’ is an apt culmination of the duo’s talents and a fitting farewell.

7/10 

Ecstatic released 'Urals' on May 5th 2015 (buy).

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