A witches coven from Medieval England making the best case for playing recorders ever.
Gazelle Twin has often sung about England and her experiences living inside it. Teaming up with six-piece drone choir Nyx was an inspired move though as both bring an essence of Medieval England to the table in their own way. ‘Deep England’ started off a live performance that included a reworking of ‘Pastoral‘, Gazelle Twin’s most recent album. Now fully conceived as a record in its own right, it more than deserves its own separate attention.
Everything within ‘Deep England’ feels like a wild merger of primal witch-hunting and a holier than thou serenity. Nyx’s amazing vocal abilities could sound utterly blissful in other hands. Here, they are haunting and disturbing… and I am here for it. From the opening church bells ringing out from ‘Glory’, we descend into an evocative pagan ritual of choir voices leaping out the speakers towards you. It reminds me a little of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares but with a taint of the church running through the coil. It is so evocative and provoking as ‘Folly’ literally smashes voices that bubble up back down again with a weird sub-woofer hammer. How dare you think you can rise up.
‘Fire Leap’ contains the best use of recorder I’ve heard in a while as we get a creepy reworking of the track from the original Wicker Man. Nyx swarm around the speakers from afar as the creepy recorder loop repeats. The whole piece is a modern horror classic as the vocals twist and bend over low drones and scrapers. Calling directly back to the Pastoral album, ‘Better in My Day’ is reworked into a schizophrenic vocal rave. Whilst I found the original a marching rhetoric craze that seemed to be a minor send-up, this version feels more sinister. The added Nyx effects and recorders towards the end show that the repetitive discourse is falling apart. The music is chaotic, like a machine sending a pinwheel flying.
The second half of the album is largely more romantic and ethereal. The paganism and guttural vocal displays move from aggression to serpentine. Voices bend, fracture and refract back across octaves of drones. It is utterly captivating – like a spiritual trance. ‘Throne’ and ‘Jerusalem’ work hand in hand for me. One points at the Monarchy and the leadership of England, the other as a creepy echo of William Blake’s poem. Both feel malevolent, full of noise, a swirling drone of whispers, synths, bubbles and moans. It is as if both leader and religion are casting spells of darkness upon us all. ‘Deep England’ feels almost cathartic as a response. Here, drones and creaking percussion buckle and break until a collective moan of ‘the river overflows’ booms out. From there, the track becomes a glorious cycle of voices and synths as collectively rejoice in a purge in unison. The final track ‘Golden Dawn’ may be thirteen minutes but the final seven of those are complete silence. After a sermon styled closure, Gazelle Twin and Nyx exit stage forest and we are left to take in what has gone before. It is fascinating that after all that noise, what silence makes you think about if you just let it in.
Maybe as a fellow dweller of England, I am reading too much into things but ‘Deep England’ feels like a purging ritual. I’ve never felt like our country has been so divided, so confused nor so in need of a hug. Nyx and Gazelle Twin may not offer the hug but they do illuminate a primal urge to channel and focus your inner anger and contempt. This album is like a musical almanac. When I’m pissed off with what is trending on Twitter, I can use ‘Better In My Day’. The system? ‘Throne’ or ‘Glory’. If I want to cast an imaginary spell back, ‘Fire Leap’ has my back. Of course, I could be having a huge mental projection but that is the beauty of what Nyx’s voices and Gazelle Twin’s abstractary gives. These are evocative chants and moans that can take you anywhere you want to go. Grab a ticket and enjoy the ride, this one is worth it.
Recommended track: Glory
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