Tuesday, December 6, 2011

REVIEW: Xela - My Memories Of Gallifrey

8.25 out of 10

You won't encounter many people whose musical knowledge extends as far as John Twells' (Xela). He runs the label, Type Records, which moves through countless genres from Peter Broderick's folk compositions to Thomas K├Âner dark ambient releases. He DJs in cities across America. He writes for multiple music web pages. What sets John Twells apart from the bulk of musicphiles, however, is his lavish and extensive solo discography under the moniker Xela. Among each of his fifteen albums, Twells displays no effort to disguise his passion for exploration. Each of them are marked by a constant shift of aesthetic, from the weird fusion of acoustic guitars and heavy beats on Tangled Wool (2004) to the string-heavy noise experiments on The Dead Sea (2006). But Twells' diverse output of music has accomplished a rare feat. It has created a style undefinable in its own right, marked by a constant progression, underlined by a constant beauty.

However within his album trilogy consisting of The Illuminated (2009), The Divine (2009), and My Memories of Gallifrey (2011), Twells' evolution has specified into what seems an aesthetic with which he finally feels satisfied. And he's right to feel so. Each of these album's shared focus on dark, loose noise compositions underlined with glitched-out beats resonate with a rare beauty. The first two albums consist of twenty-minute long drones full of tape-delay and storms of feedback. The final of the trilogy condenses these abstractions into much more direct songs. With a looper in one hand and MS-20 synth in the other, My Memories of Gallifrey begins with the thirty-six second “Cloister Bell Blues.” The opener's short and quiet hum then swells into the loud surges of some bizarre laser-like electronic of “Jammed Chameleon Circuit.” This change of dynamics, a constant in Xela's albums, proves songs without structure do not mean songs without depth. And the listener feels just that. All the complexities of this album like the trance-like beat of “Would You Care For A Jelly Baby” or the countless layers flawlessly fused of “Easy of Pi” make it by far one of the most intriguing of Xela's releases.

Without a doubt My Memories of Gallifrey marks a significant moment in Xela's discography. Though by no means is this his foray into pop, Twells has made few albums as captivating as his last. It finds itself within a curious medium – a middle ground between abstract soundscapes and meticulously crafted songs – of which few artists have ever done as masterfully.

Standout Tracks: The Eye Of Dissonance, Would You Care For A Jelly Baby, As Easy As Pi

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