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 previous work. Twells sent out demos of his work, which caught the ear of Metamatics' Lee Norris, who asked him to contribute a track to a compilation and released Xela's 2003 debut mini-album, For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights, on the Neo Ouija label. Around that time, Twells began collaborating with Gabriel Morley, aka Logreybeam, as the duo Yasume. Tangled Wool, a collection of love songs that also reintroduced guitars into Twells' music, was released on City Centre Offices in 2004.
The Dead Sea, a concept album about a ship attacked by zombies, arrived on Twells' own Type label (which also issued releases by Logreybeam and Khonnor). Influenced by prog, sea shanties, Italian horror soundtracks, and noise, the album also featured beautifully grim visuals by artist Matthew Woodson. That year, Yasume's homage to David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti's influence on Twells and Morley, Where We're from the Birds Sing a Pretty Song, was also released. For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights was reissued by Type in 2007, and In Bocca al Lupo, which was originally composed for a gallery installation revolving around the concept of fear, arrived in 2008. During that time, Twells also released many limited-edition projects on imprints including Digitalis, SMTG, and Static Caravan.