You may be familiar with John Twells (aka Xela) through his work as founder of the well respected Type label out of the UK. In his spare time he’s notorious for his â€œdark, yet never suffocating compositionsâ€ under the moniker of Xela . His latest offering The Dead Sea charters a sonic landscape that sucks the listener deep into its watery depths where sounds become creatures with goose-flesh inducing tendrils.
The horror gently unfolds.
The overall mood of The Dead Sea is, to put it simply, macabre. But it’s also a rather diverse album once hooked into its nuances. From the long languid strings of ‘The Gate’ to the beautiful interplay of percussive bell and guitar strum melodies layered over scratchy white noise on ‘Linseed’ there’s a transportive ebb and flow in harmonic shades of grey madness. It’s the dense texture of the granular foundation that draws you in, the clanging of maritime inspired sirens that alarm, and the subtle key changes that deceptively hold out hope for a happy ending.
But this is not a fairytale.
At times it is clear that Twells is very much inspired by his love of old Italian horror films and their associated soundtracks. ‘Creeping Flesh’ recalls theremin special effects for vintage sci-fi while ‘Savage Ritual’ hints at Ennio Morricone, without descending into a retro epic theme song. After all, it’s not cheesy schlock muzak that grips your chest tight, it’s the everyday fears of mortality. The confrontation of real moments of release. Xela never promises soul redemption or a last minute escape but instead offers the challenge of seeking solace in a sombre aesthetic of transgressive death. As Lucio Fulci would say, “remember that fear is the oldest feeling of mankind. Enjoy the music of fear.”