For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights

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John Twells' first album as Xela, 2003's For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights, is a quietly accomplished full-length debut that reflects the main thrust of electronic music in the early 2000s without being too derivative. The small, crispy-sounding, abstract beats, deep basslines, and wistful melodies that dominate the album sum up IDM in the late '90s and early 2000s, and the influence of Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and Broadcast can be felt throughout. However, the flair for intricately detailed tracks that somehow never feel overwrought is all Twells, and that, along with his ways with mood and melody (particularly on "Afraid of Monsters," "Bobble Hats in Summer," and "Last Breath"), is what makes For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights unique. "Japanese Whispers" is a standout example of his layered, intertwining approach, while "Inbetween Two Rooms" and "Impulsive Behaviour" have the shimmering, slightly tense feeling that he developed in his later music. Interestingly, tracks like "An Abandoned Robot" and "The Long Walk Home at Midnight" come closer to the dark atmosphere of later works such as The Dead Sea than the bittersweet folktronica of Xela's second album, Tangled Wool. Even though Xela's music became more strikingly original once he reincorporated his love of rock and heavy sounds -- alternative rock and heavy metal were Twells' favorite styles until he discovered and then immersed himself in electronic music -- the loveliness of, and skill behind, For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights is undeniable. [Twells' own label, Type, reissued the album in 2007 with two bonus tracks, "A Glance" and "Danse Macabre."]

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