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In Bocca Al Lupo

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Album Review

"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 (aka John Twells) 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.


Born: 1982 in Walsall, West Midlands, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s

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...
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In Bocca Al Lupo, Xela
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