Gazelle Twin – Pastoral
With Pastoral, Gazelle Twin has crafted a masterpiece that feels timeless, her most deft blend of punishing and melodic yet
Amongst the idyllic rural landscape that adorns the cover of Gazelle Twin’s latest album lies a striking yet altogether anomalous figure. Standing out not just because of its bright red clothing but also because of its digitised design within the painted backdrop, it’s a surreal, somewhat unsettling juxtaposition of images that sets the overall tone for Pastoral.
Beyond the cover, Pastoral continues to exhume the terror that can reside within seeming idylls. In an age where Brexit is a perennial shadow and societal tensions bubble under, Elizabeth Bernholz’s latest album delves into what lies beneath, what lurks behind the picture-postcard scenes and England’s green mountains. She draws together the past and the present, retaining elements of the traditional or pastoral (a smattering of harpsichord here or a trill of recorder there) but filtering these through the lens of loops, often warped by the presence of shuddering electronics. Through this, Bernholz combines the past and the present in ways that are seamless yet chilling. Thus, the clipped woodwind-like repetitions of Throne transform themselves into the minimal yet haunting Mongrel.
Bernholz ensures even the album’s most musically uncompromising moments incorporate these tropes with ease. Better In My Day has a fluttering motif but layers it on top of relentless pulses and beats. They accompany its punishing repetition of the phrase that casts a critical eye over generational rifts, made all the darker with interjections like 'No locked doors / No foreigners.' While she uses different voices across the record, a cutting observation is never too far away. Little Lambs, which plays out like a twisted rave, begins with 'Stick it to the man / Or wave those flags.' By comparison to much of the rest of the record, Dieu et Mon Droit is melodically spacey and cosmic but that only makes its imagery pack an even greater punch: 'Kicked into the curb like empty coke cans... Trickling down like shit into the sewer.'
On Glory, Bernholz’s vocals are supremely commanding, her dramatic performance placed at the forefront of a mix that feels doom-laden, far away from the pomp and ceremony suggested by its title. It's a microcosm of just how powerful Pastoral is as a whole. Gazelle Twin has crafted a masterpiece that feels timeless, her most deft blend of punishing and melodic yet as well as a fearless examination of both then and now.
Listen to: Glory, Little Lambs, Better In My Day