Gazelle Twin - Pastoral - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Gazelle Twin - Pastoral

by Sean Hewson Rating:10 Release Date:2018-09-21
Gazelle Twin - Pastoral
Gazelle Twin - Pastoral

‘Forged in a rural idyll in Middle-England, the new album Pastoral, by Gazelle Twin, exhumes England’s rotten past, and shines a torch over its ever-darkening present.’ So says the press release for Elizabeth Bernholz’s 5th album of new material. I don’t quote it to poke fun, I quote it because it’s spot on.

Vaguely traditional sounds presented in a fairly disconcerting way is what we find on the opening track, Folly. As such it would seem an ideal scene-setter. Better In My Day, a pastiche of a certain level of person’s bus rant, is bang up to date. Urgent chants, discordant electronic sounds and a skipping, banging beat. It also references the gender lines that Bernholz (and a lot of us) are trying to blur. Gazelle Twin’s preferred pronoun is It. Little Lambs is another unruly, discordant banger with interjections of 80s Electro and Bernholz’s disguised voice.

The traces of 80s Electro continue on Old Thorn which is predominantly instrumental. Dieu et Mon Droit (God and my right (you’re welcome) ) is more sedate and the vocal is clearer. It’s a kind of dystopian state of the nation address and, for me, it’s spot on. The music itself increases the anxiety of the subject matter, much like 70s/80s Post-Punk, although it bears no resemblance to it. The mangled folk sounds return for Throne, where a choir of Gazelle Twins sing ‘insolvency’ and the stink and trash begins to rise to the surface. It segues straight into Mongrel. It’s not always easy to hear the whispered vocals (‘What species is this? What century?’) but the target here seems to be the continued returned of racism and fascism. Glory is the longest track on the album and starts slowly before building into an epic of frustration at out-moded thinking’s refusal to die out. A kind of rewriting of the The Times They Are A-Changin’. The rhythm accentuates the drudgery of constantly being dragged back. The fantastically-named, Tea Rooms, increases the confusion both with its sounds and lyrics. The repeated ‘cattle, cattle’ suggests we are still, thematically, on the same battleground fighting the same ideas. I can’t quite catch the main lyric, but I think it’s ‘in a poster oil picture’ which places us back in the opening quote of this review. We’re in a idyll but it’s far from idyllic. Jerusalem is a shorter track with shades of Oneohtrix Point Zero and a hard to hear spoken word vocal that references Punch & Judy.

‘Did he who made the lamb make thee?’ says Dance Of The Peddlers and the confusion and frustration continue to grow. The single, Hobby Horse, is next. Bernholz asks that someone gets ‘on your hobby horse and get out of here’. It’s unclear if she means herself (itself) or the old-fashioned thinking that gives the song such a claustrophobic feel. The sense is of desperate fight or flight situation with the modern/olde world. This feel is exacerbated by a particularly pummelling ending where the violence and tension grows and grows until the song starts coming apart at the seams. Fittingly, Sunny Stories, is brighter but with discordant arpeggios where quaint olde England is told that ‘your history’s happened now.’ The 40 second closer, Over The Hills, is more mangled Folk song that is brutally and intentionally cut off.

This is a fantastic piece of work. It’s like The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society but the bittersweet, fond ribbing has been replaced by intense frustration and claustrophobia. Why are we being held back by this old and incorrect thinking? I would have liked to have spent a lot more time with this record before review/release, it’s that kind of album. I imagine it will be a piece of work that reveals more and more over the coming months. It seems to me that Gazelle Twin is exactly the right artist for these times – the vision is clear, pure and non-binary, the emotions are deeply felt and the execution is cutting edge. The cover art is also exceptional, a desecration of an old Deutsche Grammophon record cover.

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