Our Still Spinning feature focuses on records that we consider to be iconic – whether that’s for popular, or personal reasons – and celebrates our enduring love for them. Get In Her Ears Co-Founder & Features Editor Kate Crudgington talks us through why electronic artist Gazelle Twin’s debut album, The Entire City, released in July 2011, is still one of her most influential listens to date.
Named after a painting by German surrealist artist Max Ernst, Gazelle Twin’s debut album The Entire City was released via her own imprint Anti-Ghost Moon Ray on 11th July 2011. Independently composed, recorded and produced, her ambiguous lyrics and altruistic sounds invited her listeners into a world that offered both shimmering intrigue and heavy shadow in equal measure.
It was my older brother Joe who originally introduced me to Gazelle Twin aka Elizabeth Bernholz in 2014, citing her second album Unflesh as one of the best things he’d ever heard. I used to lay in the dark, headphones on, listening to it and feeling an odd sense of calm, as waves of nervous energy rippled through me. That record changed my idea of what electronic music could sound like and I was captivated by the persona printed on the album’s cover. Blue hoodie, long brown hair, a partially covered face and an open mouth revealing a snarling pair of teeth. Menacing yet enticing, terrifying yet familiar. Gazelle Twin was an enigma – communicating with listeners through harrowing imagery and nerve-shredding synths.
Back then, I had no idea she had released her debut album three years earlier, or that it would sound so different. Having encountered Unflesh first, listening to The Entire City felt like an ambient fairy-tale in comparison. But, as with all of her obscure creations, what Gazelle Twin excels at is contrasting the darkness with the light, so even if that darkness sometimes feels all consuming – like it often does on Unflesh and on her stunning third record Pastoral – the sublime still manages to shine through too. The Entire City is a sonic landscape littered with dense concrete, intimidating obelisks and unknown relics, but it’s also teeming with life.
Filled with twitchy drum samples, cinematic synths and her uniquely operatic vocals, The Entire City received flattering comparisons to Fever Ray when it was originally released, but I think Bernholz’s sound is often grittier and more detached. There’s an underlying feeling of voyeurism as you wander through her musical landscapes, something I feel she captures perfectly on the eponymous opening track, with her extended high pitch vocals guiding the way, like a thrilling race through deserted streets. It bleeds into the breathy stillness of ‘Concrete Mother’ and the hypnotic ‘Men Like Gods’, two of my favourite tracks on the record.
It feels odd to pick apart and review The Entire City on a track-by-track basis, because it has such a cohesive sound. Each time I listen I feel like I’m being shrouded in Bernholz’s graceful, unsettling sonic paraphernalia; her cryptic lyrics and eerie electronics lulling me into a false sense of security. The subtle power of her voice on ‘I Am Shell I Am Bone’ and ‘Changelings’ is intoxicating, whilst on ‘Obelisk’ – another favourite of mine – her blend of dense beats and crystalline synths evolves into an exquisite electronic hymn. Punctuated by briefer tracks like ‘Far From Home’, ‘Bell Tower’ and ‘Fight-or-Flight’ – on which she flexes her operatic voice sensationally – she ensnares the senses and gently pushes listeners into unchartered territories across the album. In retrospect, ‘View Of A Mountain’ feels like a hint at what was to come, it’s the kind of instrumental that would sit comfortably on Unflesh.
Steeped in shadow and mystery, The Entire City is a fascinating introduction to a truly progressive artist who has evolved into a new species of performer since 2011. Not known for revisiting her previous albums or personas, Gazelle Twin’s sights remain fixed on her future projects and I can’t wait to immerse myself in more of her visceral sounds.
Album Artwork: Suzanne Moxhay