Social Anxiety and a Pointed Finger from the Piper Herself
Knowing how to describe what Gazelle Twin does with sound is a bit like asking you to describe how you feel when you start falling through your own dream or nightmare. Elizabeth Bernholz’s third album as Gazelle Twin takes the anxiety horror art pop that was so internal in her last album Unflesh and takes it externally to the world around her in a divided and heavily conflicted Great Britain. In many ways, it feels like a social commentary from a maddening court jester but the madness speaks more truth than we give it credit for. Musically – it’s electronic abstract confusion.
The album is full of heavy beats, harsh noises, twisted synth motifs that loop endlessly like a swirl of heady pressure that just doesn’t stop coming at you. Sometimes Bernholz’s voice is soothing, other times its causing uproar and often its robotic and layered in a distorted way that makes her sound inhuman. In all circumstances – it is creepy. After the eerie coo’s and synth twirls of “Folly” the aggressive spat out repeat of much “Better in My Day” is a rhetoric of old to young over a thick industrial beat whilst flutes dance a hypnotic dance of paranoia. That paranoia steps up further with the tribal electronica of “Little Lambs” as we hear of the younger side of life and the hopelessness they feel that spills into an empty arpeggiator of “Old Thorn” that turns voices into war sirens. In an album that rarely turns down the attack, the more melodic “Dieu et mon droit” is almost a relief for a brief spell before the haunting squealing chorus slowly dismembers each of your senses to show how desensitised you are to the modern day capitalistic lifestyle. Its hammer horror approach is unsettling but also deeply darkly comic at the same time. Gazelle Twin walks the fine line of creating, critiquing and yet jesting with the horror show that is today’s world. Even in the swirling whirlwind of the infectious “Mongrel”, she is shouting “What species is this?!” as if we are losing what makes us human ourselves.
“Glory” is the centrepiece of the album where Gazelle Twin turns things down a notch to let the atmospheric pulsating drums and deep bass lines throb but then places her voice front and centre with pure clarity. It’s not often she places her singing voice to the fore but here she absolutely shines as she wails like a pagan ritual and throws herself into past riches and future hopes of glory. It’s a magical song and shows a completely different side of Gazelle Twin. Things stay melodic initially for “Tea Rooms” which expertly see’s a simple stabbing riff decay as the lyrics tell of a frozen pastoral picture, frozen in time leaving its inhabitants trapped not knowing their purpose. It’s this rose-tinted way of life that’s constantly poked at across the album in a great piece of satire. A jaunty horror giggle with “Jerusalem” caves way for hyper flutes and shamanic drums for “Dance of the Peddlars” which best described a Morris Dancer being sent to the underworld. Toodles! This brings us to the single “Hobbyhorse” which is an absolute riot. The industrial beats and white noise melodies merge with the distorted vocals to create a real power surge of insanity and angst. It’s the anti-anthem you’ll want to run around screaming to. With that rage-inducing explosion over “Sunny Stories” swings into flute synth space opera. Distorted flute synths wrap around your ears and leave Elizabeth’s voice singing in high register and belting out operatic cries that echo out like Elizabeth Fraser. It comes from nowhere and on the first listen utterly stunned me. After all this darkness, we have this fascinating release of freedom and it’s superb to have it. The album closes with an abrupt verse of “over the Hills and far away” from a farmer like folk singer which takes us full circle thematically but sonically the album hits its nadir closure on the track before.
Is Gazelle Twin’s Pastoral for everyone? Hell no! It’s an avant-garde electronic art form that is one third horror movie, one third industrial party and one third maniac satire. It is however utterly unique and no one else will be doing anything quite like it this year. Gazelle Twin’s third album is possibly my favourite of hers to date and is the perfect starting point for anyone who wants to hear what social anxiety sounds like on the gothic dance floor.
Recommended track: Hobbyhorse
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