A unique artist with razor sharp vision and uncompromising creativity; Gazelle Twin (aka Elizabeth Bernholz) combines glitchy beats, menacing samples and an uncanny new costume on her forthcoming album, Pastoral. Set to be released via her own label Anti-Ghost Moon Ray on 21st September, the record marks another transformation for the performer; this time she’s exhuming England’s “rotten past” and questioning its uncertain future.
Bernholz has been honing her own unique vision since the release of her debut album, The Entire City, in 2001. She released her sophomore record Unflesh in 2014 to critical acclaim, and between Motherhood and curating another two atmospheric records (2016’s Out Of Body & 2017’s audio/visual project Kingdom Come), she’s now released Pastoral – and it’s been worth the wait.
“What species is this? What century is this?” she questions on opener ‘Folly’, in a vocal pitch so high it practically curdles the blood. It sets the precedent for the rest of the album – electronic soundscapes that form a permanent sense of unease. Nervous, persistent percussion and repeated lyrics on ‘Better In My Day’ act as an apt parody of the clichéd phrase the track is named after. Bernholz’s warped vocals drip with apathy on ‘Little Lambs’, alongside twitchy synth samples and pulverizing drums. It seamlessly transitions in to ‘Old Thorn’, which recycles the same synth sequences, but which ring out with a different kind of intensity.
Gazelle Twin’s dystopian carousel of sound continues on following track ‘Dieu Et Mon Droit’, which translates as “God and my right”. The phrase is a motto associated with the British Monarchy, and Bernholz’s lyric “Dripping down like shit in to the sewer” feels like a repulsive but brilliant analogy to the Monarch’s inheritance to divine rights. It’s followed by ‘Throne’ – a brief but intriguing interlude of echos and slowly spoken words about power and the wounds it inflicts. When these tracks are performed live, one can imagine Bernholz’s jester-like, red and white costume acting as a powerful vitriolic visual aid here.
Midway through the record we arrive at ‘Mongrel’, with its lyrics – “what species is this? What century is this?” – shadowing opening track ‘Folly’. Her motif provides an insight in to the exhaustion her exploration of these themes can bring. The line “I’m too tired to protest but I’m too worried I’ll regret this. I’m not ready to accept this” feels particularly poignant in the current Brexit-obsessed political climate. The remarkable ‘Glory’ follows, with its slow-building, beguiling vocals and steady, deep drums that spread out across ominous synths.
The daintily named ‘Tea Rooms’ describes the unease of “living in a pastoral picture”, highlighting the uncomfortable reality lurking behind England’s quaint postcard image. The atmospheric ‘Jerusalem’ follows, before the marching beats and seething spoken-word lyrics of ‘Dance Of The Peddlers’ kicks in. It’s less of a dance, more a defiant attack on the Peddlers she speaks of. It transitions seamlessly in to the heart-palpitating ‘Hobby Horse’, which acts like a warning to said Peddlers to “get on your hobby horse and get out of here”. With her humble recorder, bared teeth and samples of football hooligan chants; Bernholz has created a claustrophobic, charged gallop of anarchy.
The false joviality of the synth sequences on ‘Sunny Stories’ are undermined by Bernholz’s powerful vocal display and an ominous under layer of sinister noise that rings out at even interludes. It’s a haunting penultimate track, and is followed by ‘Over The Hills’ which closes the record with an intriguing forty seconds of voice samples and a hymn-like soundscape. Gazelle Twin delivers her Pastoral vision through grinning but gritted teeth. Her altruistic style is one that can’t be mimicked – even though she herself is a master at adopting the traits of others, and transforming in to a new species of performer who offers brutality and intrigue in equal measure.