LOW STOCK LEVEL
The Dead Sea
This is the third full-length release from Manchester-based Xela (John Twells), and his first release on his own Type label imprint. Showing an astonishing evolution in sound from early releases such as For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights and Tangled Wool, through to the ink-blot atmospherics of The Dead Sea, what originated in the clinical environs of digitalis was gradually eroded by thickly-hued instrumentation and sublime arrangements. Featuring a fantastically macabre set of illustrated cover art from Matthew Woodson (www.ghostco.org), The Dead Sea is Xela's ode to all things maritime -- with the album's thematic thread detailing a doomed ocean voyage that meets an abrupt end amongst a swarm of malignant zombies. Drawing on the work of 1970s horror directors (Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and George Romero, et al.) and their respective soundtracks, The Dead Sea pays a considerable debt to the likes of Goblin or Fabio Frizzi -- albeit frayed with a bloodied disposition that reveals a love of Earth, Circle and Wolf Eyes. Nowhere near as oppressive as this description could have you believe, Xela also exposes a deep seam of kaleidoscopic folk amongst his collection, with generous nods going to the freewheeling antics of labels such as Fonal and The Jewelled Antler Collective. Opening through the lace-curtained drone of "The Gate," Xela presents a cold-water batch of foggy soundscapes that briefly part to reveal some insistent percussion. Next up are the heat-haze melodies of "Linseed" and its tender coalition of acoustic shards and mealy rhythms, before a Victorian music box is exposed to some virulently thrumming necromancy on "Drunk On Salt Water." From here Xela continues to coax both light and dark from a diverse palate of instruments ranging in style from the throbbing, Theremin-heavy electronics of "Creeping Flesh" and the tarnished grandeur of "Savage Ritual," through to the seething distortion of "Humid At Dusk" and the nervous shimmer of "Briefly Seen." Horrifically good!