A new species of performer who offers listeners an unflinching, but intensely thrilling perspective on the past, present and future; electronic artist Gazelle Twin has collaborated with NYX drone choir to create Deep England, a shadowy, graceful collection of sounds that radiate with unease.
Inspired by the tracks that formed Gazelle Twin aka Elizabeth Bernholz’s 2018 album Pastoral, and informed by British paganism and ritualistic paraphernalia, Deep England is a dark fable that serves as a warning to listeners not to get swept up in national apathy. Radically reworked and presented alongside original compositions by NYX, Paul Giovanni and William Blake, Bernholz and NYX present their vision of Britain in its “post-truth” sphere, embroidering a new tapestry of sound for these jarring and uncertain times.
The chiming bells on opening track ‘Glory’ begin the warped aural ceremony, underscored by NYX’s sublime meditative drones. The crystalline notes of the recorder break through, before Bernholz questions “Will you become the saint you want to be?” in her magnificent operatic voice, with the choir echoing her ghastly sentiments. This is dialled up to blood curdling effect on ‘Folly’, with the lyric “What species is this?” being delivered in a multitude of ways. The power of the singular and the collective voice is the lifeblood of Deep England. The fascinating ways in which they are distorted, rippled, extended or layered will keep listeners gripped throughout.
Lifted from the cult 1973 film The Wicker Man, a goose-bump inducing interpretation of ‘Fire Leap’ continues the aural séance. Overlapping recorders – instruments of nostalgic folly turned into frightening farce – are made all the more sinister by the chanted motif “Take the flame inside you / Burn and burn below”. This warped incantation bleeds into the abrupt, skittish ‘Better In My Day’. It buzzes with a nervous energy, with Bernholz and NYX snarling their way through the lyrics in frenzied, breathy fashion. They continue to “pick the wound” of tradition with morbid fascination on ‘Throne’, singing and hissing of “insolvency” and racking up debts.
The stunning vocal harmonies on ‘Jerusalem’ and the eponymous ‘Deep England’ set the cells alight. Underscored by the now familiar hypnotic drone loops, these intense hymn-like offerings cast shadows and shed light simultaneously, with the latter dissolving the ears over eight and a half minutes. Composed by Sian O’Gorman, the ominous ‘Golden Dawn’ closes the album on a heavy, but hopeful note. The title refers to The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret society devoted to the practice of the occult and paranormal activities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s a cinematic, aural exorcism delivered with spellbinding flair.
Whilst Bernholz’s unique vision of Britain’s past was brought vividly to life on her original record Pastoral, with the support of the NYX drone choir her vitriol is able to take its fullest, most nerve-shredding form on Deep England. It’s a phenomenal artistic accomplishment, a jarring reminder that our dark past is never too far behind us and it’s truly unlike anything you’ve heard before.
Performers: Adélaïde Pratoussy, Cecilia Forssberg, Elizabeth Bernholz, Natalie Sharp, Ruth Corey, Shireen Qureshi and Sian O’Gorman.
Co-produced by Marta Salogni, Sian O’Gorman (NYX) and Elizabeth Bernholz (Gazelle Twin). Mixing & additional programming by Marta Salogni and mastering by Heba Kadry.
Photo Credit: Jamie Cameron