Boomkat Product Review:
Rave flashbacks, field-recordings and fractal ambient collages by Berlin flatmates John “Xela” Twells and Jake Muir for this immersive and sprawling Documenting Sound double-header.
It took a global pandemic to revive their production juices, but John Twells has finally been coaxed back into action here, no less than a square decade since they excommunicated the Xela project. Working in earshot of their flatmate Jake Muir, who follows from a gorgeous second LP for sferic (‘The Hum Of Your Veiled Voice’), the pair supply reflective journals of a week in the early months of lockdown, respectively dwelling on memories of better times, and the feeling of being cloistered at home, as well as drifting an empty Berlin that’s usually fizzing with energy. Both artists were transplanted to the city in the months and year prior to the pandemic, and thus their relationship to the city feels tentatively curious and distanced on each work.
Xela’s passions for rave and film bleed thru on ‘Safe (in trauma)’, whose title combines a reference to Todd Haynes’ 1995 psychological horror, with a nod to Trauma, the bar they would frequent every weekend in a pre-apocalyptic Berlin, and in particular two clubnights featuring Julianna Huxtable and Ziúr that left a huge impression on them just before lockdown hit. The music follows with a transition from the clammiest vocals and OOBE-like sound design, to an apocalypse-baiting Russian hardbass finale to get your creaky heart started in a way thats pretty much impossible to describe, paying testament to Twells’ insatiable, boundless musical curiosity.
Jake Muir was in an adjacent room, studying, while all this was going on in Twells’ bedroom next door, and felt compelled to respond with a contrasting collage of Berlin’s soundsphere. With patient, absorbingly gauzy magick, they subtly locate the poetry in the everyday soundfield of church bells, strolling neighbours and strangers passing beneath their window, and the unusual silences of usually crowded places at Alexanderplatz. The recording has an almost flickering neon feel to it, a tense ambivalence that could spill into either romance or sheer terror at any moment, precariously balanced between the two for its extended duration.