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“What species is this? What century?” 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. Told through a troupe of multi-gender voices, in vernaculars old and new; from the shrill echo of folksong to tabloid-tinged jaunts, the artist aka Elizabeth Bernholz, presents the notion that “there is horror in every idyll, and danger lurking beyond the “quaint” ”.
The village square - once host to centuries of public torture - becomes a floral framed postcard, dolled-up for the Summer Fête. A sunny, afternoon walk over the hills unsettles a cloud of angry flies feeding from unidentifiable remains. Bigoted vitriol gently murmurs amidst tearoom chatter, as the neatly framed pastoral picture dissolves into a solemn ennui.
Four years in the making, amidst life-changing events, including a move far out of the city, Pastoral will be the first major release by the artist since her widely acclaimed LP UNFLESH (2014, Anti-Ghost Moon Ray) and is seamlessly on-theme, together with Bernholz’s J.G. Ballard-inspired A/V show ’Kingdom Come’ (soundtrack released November 2017, Anti-Ghost Moon Ray) - a fascism-infused hellscape, this time set in deepest Old England.
As its sole creator, Gazelle Twin “The Composer, Musician and Producer” has crafted an album overflowing with a frenzy of traditional and contemporary musical tropes; from early music instrumentation - the harpsichord and the humble recorder, fed through myriad electronics - to the compelling, ritualistic application of found sample-looping. Beyond Bernholz’s signature choral-infusions, here reverberating like a warped Sunday Service, there are even shades of ‘90s house and the once-thriving rural rave scene, albeit recalled as a watery, second-hand memory.
In its consummation it is an album that feels pan-century, even pan-species. Set against a verdant backdrop of hedgerows and steeples, Gazelle Twin “The Artist and Performer”, constructs an eccentric and commanding visual embodiment of all-of-the-above - a costume fit for a court Jester of the 21st Century.
The colours of Neo-Nationalism. Coke cans, and DANGER. “It” (not “she”) hints at folkloric traditions with a footy mascot twist. The “Ye Olde” and “The Everyman” of the English cliché. Brandishing a sneer and a hobby horse. A riddle and a recorder. A jeer and a square dance in red, Adidas Gazelle’s, and a mad, fixed GRIN - first glimpsed in the single, ‘Hobby Horse’ (22 June, Anti-Ghost Moon Ray). A deranged, absurd reflection of deranged and absurd times.
Martin says: Bernholz returns for another brilliantly off-piste collection of post-NIN industrial scree, thudding glitches and bit-crushed vocal abstractions, filtered through a rosy, synth-pop filter and smashed into a thousand pieces before being reformed, Burrough-style. Completely baffling but thoroughly brilliant.
2/ Better In My Day
3/ Little Lambs
4/ Old Thorn
5/ Dieu Et Mon Droit
9/ Tea Rooms
11/ Dance Of The Peddlers
12/ Hobby Horse
13/ Sunny Stories
14/ Over The Hills