Somnambule - Writing About Music

Xela ~ Tangled Wool

picture of teddy bear with red cross applied to it (denoting forbidden) with word NO beneath  
Nope. I’m just not buying this. This is for people who have teddy bears arranged on their bed or, even worse, on the rear shelf of their cars (causing everybody who sees them to cringe). GROWN UP people + Teddy bears? NO. If you’re reading this and you have soft toys ANYWHERE in your bedroom I beg you – go and remove them. They’re not alive, they really really don’t have feelings that will be hurt by banishment to a shoebox in your wardrobe. This advice isn’t intended for you if you’ve got emotional problems or need some kind of crutch – that’s alright, everybody’s been there at one time or another in their life, me included. And if you’re under 12 or maybe even 14 and you’re reading this – okay, leave them there for a while. I’m only really addresssing people who think it’s kind of cute, that it shows their gentle side. Take it from me – it doesn’t – it’s just weird. The title of the album sails WAY too near to an image of a kitten playing with a ball of wool. Ugh. And, just like the desire to pick at a scab my eye is drawn ineluctably and repeatedly to some of the track titles, how about ‘Softness of Sense’ (perfect music for an Andrex commercial?), ‘Smiles and Bridges’? (gah), ‘You Are In The Stars’? (bleugh)...

The problem with this music is that it appears to deliberately set out to be ‘lovely’ and ‘beautiful’ yet the most interesting forms of beauty – at least to this listener – are accidental. They’re the result of contrast, of their proximity to darkness. It’s the old ‘life is so amazing because it ends in death’ conundrum. Jungle is beautiful, Philip Glass’s Einstein On The Beach is beautiful, Autechre and Joy Division and Miles Davis’s Dark Magus are all beautiful. Even in, say, Brian Eno and Harold Budd's The Pearl there's a subtle undercurrent of autumnal darkness, of the approach of winter. Xela’s Tangled Wool lacks that key - to this listener - counterbalance.
Colin Buttimer
March 2004
Published by Absorb