Jan 29, 2017

Sundaze 1705


Today's artist is a British electronic music artist, from Walsall, who currently operates out of Malden, Massachusetts. When he is not busy running the Type record label, and writing for Boomkat, he produces electronic music encompassing a variety of styles and moods. His earlier music combines constructed beats, smart melodies and brittle electronica, which is supplemented by guitar and other instrumentation in later recordings. An obsession with horror soundtracks, has influenced him to produce more atmospheric soundscapes encompassing folk, drone, and psychedelia........N'Joy

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Xela is the brainchild of Manchester, England-based multi-instrumentalist/producer John Twells, the moniker under which he records atmospheric, eclectic, and often dark electronic music. Twells' father was a guitarist and he developed a love of music early on, playing flute and saxophone as a child and moving on to guitar in his teens. After playing in various bands, Twells began making music on his own, finding more inspiration in electronic music than the metal, punk, and indie influences of his previous work. Twells sent out demos of his work, which caught the ear of Metamatics' Lee Norris, who asked him to contribute a track to a compilation and released Xela's 2003 debut mini-album, For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights, on the Neo Ouija label. Around that time, Twells began collaborating with Gabriel Morley, aka Logreybeam, as the duo Yasume. Tangled Wool, a collection of love songs that also reintroduced guitars into Twells' music, was released on City Centre Offices in 2004.

Two years later, The Dead Sea, a concept album about a ship attacked by zombies, arrived on Twells' own Type label (which also issued releases by Logreybeam and Khonnor). Influenced by prog, sea shanties, Italian horror soundtracks, and noise, the album also featured beautifully grim visuals by artist Matthew Woodson. That year, Yasume's homage to David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti's influence on Twells and Morley, Where We're from the Birds Sing a Pretty Song, was also released. For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights was reissued by Type in 2007, and In Bocca al Lupo, which was originally composed for a gallery installation revolving around the concept of fear, arrived in 2008. During that time, Twells also released many limited-edition projects on imprints including Digitalis, SMTG, and Static Caravan.

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John Twells' first album as Xela, 2003's he wrote the album in-between working at a car-parts shop selling car audio and busying himself with an art degree at University, which of course gave him the time to rush home whenever he could and work on music, and had the added bonus of providing him with large speaker systems to test out prospective tracks. The record was created in response to a two key things – a sense of alienation in the small ex-industrial town of Walsall, and most importantly to the electronic music he had just begun to hear. John had been brought up on a steady diet of indie, punk and metal and was exposed to electronic music fairly late, but as soon as he heard his first washes of analogue synthesizer he knew his life would change. It quickly led him to put down the guitars and save his pennies for cheap electronic equipment – synths, drum machines and tape recorders, and before long he was crafting home-made electronic symphonies. These early demos caught the attention of Lee Norris (Metamatics) who ran the Neo Ouija label, Lee used one of the tracks on a compilation he was compiling at the time, and encouraged John to put together a full length record. The result of this would become ‘For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights’ which harnessed

Johns love for glacial electronics, the ultra-minimal sound of Mille Plateaux and 12k, hip hop and of course indie rock, melting them all down into a vague narrative across the course of the record.However, the flair for intricately detailed tracks that somehow never feel overwrought is all Twells, and that, along with his ways with mood and melody (particularly on "Afraid of Monsters," "Bobble Hats in Summer," and "Last Breath"), is what makes For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights unique. "Japanese Whispers" is a standout example of his layered, intertwining approach, while "Inbetween Two Rooms" and "Impulsive Behaviour" have the shimmering, slightly tense feeling that he developed in his later music. Interestingly, tracks like "An Abandoned Robot" and "The Long Walk Home at Midnight" come closer to the dark atmosphere of later works such as The Dead Sea than the bittersweet folktronica of Xela's second album, Tangled Wool. Even though Xela's music became more strikingly original once he reincorporated his love of rock and heavy sounds -- alternative rock and heavy metal were Twells' favorite styles until he discovered and then immersed himself in electronic music -- the loveliness of, and skill behind, For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights is undeniable. Twells' own label, Type, reissued the album in 2007 with two bonus tracks, "A Glance" and "Danse Macabre."

Xela - For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights  (flac  326mb)

01 Afraid Of Monsters 5:03
02 Under The Glow Of Streetlights 4:24
03 Japanese Whispers 6:10
04 Inbetween Two Rooms 4:47
05 Impulsive Behaviour 4:25
06 An Abandoned Robot 5:52
07 The Long Walk Home At Midnight 5:21
08 Bobble Hats In Summer 6:26
09 Digital Winter 2:16
10 Last Breath 6:13
11 A Glance 4:56
12 Danse Macabre 4:52

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Minus the baggage of realizing that nothing's incredibly distinct about it, John Twells' second Xela album is nonetheless a cuddly, sunlit listen. Filled with nostalgic/half-remembered tints that have nearly become as much of a cottage industry as retro garage rock bands; its autumnal glow comes across as homespun, less reliant on trickery than other releases that fill this niche. The folksiness of Twells' tremulous acoustic guitar, in fact, should please those who much prefer melodies to processing. This should appeal to followers of the Temporary Residence label as much as those who are now having trouble staying on top of City Centre Offices' suddenly rapid release schedule.

Xela - Tangled Wool  (flac  246mb)

01 Softness Of Senses 4:40
02 Smiles And Bridges 4:41
03 You Are In The Stars 5:04
04 Drawing Pictures Of Girls 4:49
05 Through Crimson Clouds 5:26
06 Quiet Night 5:14
07 So No Goodbyes 5:03
08 Her Eyes Sparkled And She Walked Away 5:55

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Inspired by sources as varied as Goblin's scores for Dario Argento's gory classics to Wolf Eyes' unearthly electronic noise, Xela's The Dead Sea is a concept album about a sea voyage overtaken by zombies. Stories like this don't usually end well, and neither does this one; doom is telegraphed with every track, from "The Gate" -- which begins the album with droning strings that give off vibrations of dread like heat shimmer -- to the chilling finale, "Briefly Seen." Often, the album feels like a field recording of rusty chains, ill winds, and lost souls. Though The Dead Sea is far darker than Tangled Wool or For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights, it shares Xela's attention to mood and sonic detail, teeming with writhing textures and percussion and haunting melodies that occasionally bob to the surface. Decaying sea shanties like "Creeping Flesh" and "A Floating Procession" would almost be jaunty, were it not for the unsettlingly deep basslines that shadow them. Even the prettiest tracks, such as the acoustic guitar-based "Linseed" and "Drunk on Salt Water," boast enough creepy, half-heard moments that they don't offer respite from the itchy, insectoid noise of "Wet Bones" and "Sinking Cadavers"' icy electronics, both of which evoke the zombies' slow but inevitable approach. It all culminates on the outstanding "Humid at Dusk," an eerie folk-noise battle between maritime acoustics and undead electronics. Ultimately, The Dead Sea is more spooky than terrifying; after all the buildup, some more intense scares would've been satisfying. Still, the album does a remarkably good job of conjuring up extremely vivid, ghastly images (like the one on its brilliant album artwork) and making you look around every once in a while to make sure everything is all right. Bleak, beautiful, and fascinating, this is Xela's most ambitious and accomplished work yet.

Xela - The Dead Sea  (flac  342mb)

01 The Gate 4:52
02 Linseed 4:25
03 Drunk On Salt Water 4:22
04 Wet Bones 4:44
05 Creeping Flesh 2:33
06 Savage Ritual  4:14
07 A Floating Procession 4:45
08 Sinking Cadavers 1:02
09 Humid At Dusk 5:00
10 Watching A Light In The Distance 2:08
11 Briefly Seen 5:16
12 Never Going Home 2:22
13 Halloween 7:44
14 Suspiria 5:36

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"In bocca al lupo" ("in the wolf's mouth") is a traditional Italian phrase wishing someone luck in attempting a difficult undertaking or in the face of dire circumstances. It's also a fitting title for this album, which is among Xela's most ambitious, abstract, and yes, difficult music. In Bocca al Lupo is even darker and more conceptual than 2006's magnificent zombies-at-sea epic The Dead Sea: where that album was inspired by Italian horror movie soundtracks, In Bocca al Lupo began as part of an art installation about fear, and its four lengthy pieces aren't so much scary music as expressions of creeping dread and outbursts of terror. The melodies of his earlier Type albums have bled away, leaving the harsh yet strangely lulling electronic noise that gnawed away at the edges of The Dead Sea as the heart of the music. Heavy drones and tolling church bells add chilly depth and a feeling somewhere between eerie and sacred, while the writhing layers of noise have more in common with Xela's limited-release works like Heirs of the Fire than For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights or even The Dead Sea (both of which could practically be pop albums in comparison). Like The Dead Sea, however In Bocca al Lupo is structured masterfully, drawing listeners in with the relatively gentle "Ut Nos Vivicaret," which rolls in and out as imperceptibly as fog. Each subsequent track gets deeper and denser, shifting from cavernous to suffocating: "In Deo Salutari"'s pretty bells and chimes are gradually overtaken and rotted by distortion, which leads into "In Misericordia"'s deep, uneasy drones. It culminates with "Beatae Immortalitatis," the album's 20-minute finale and its only truly loud track. Heavy Winged drummer Jed Bindeman brings In Bocca al Lupo to a pounding, howling peak that closes with a woman screaming in the distance. While it's not as immediate as Twells' previous Type output, the album's enveloping dread is more than just an exercise: it's an impressive demonstration of just how committed Twells is to pushing the boundaries of Xela's music.

Xela - In Bocca Al Lupo, Never Better  (flac  494mb)

01 Ut Nos Vivicaret 12:45
02 In Deo Salutari Meo 13:52
03 In Misericordia 14:34
04 Beatae Immortalitatis 20:37
+ Never Better
05 Lost And Loved 20:41
06 Loved And Lost 21:16

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AWA said...

Could your repost Xela's The Dead Sea and In Bocca Al Lupo, Never Better?
Thanks so much!

The Beak said...

Hi RHO, sorry to hear about your Aetix/Roots losses. Just to say, the Bocca Al lupo link is not appearing at daily uploads.

Thanks for all of your hard work and reups

The Beak