Gazelle Twin ‘Pastoral’ (Anti-Ghost Moon Ray)

Green and unpleasant lands

If Gazelle Twin’s twitchy and uptight 2014 album ’Unflesh’ was about growing up, shedding skin and emerging into a new life (and flesh), ‘Pastoral’ takes a look at the society we appear to have created in 2018. The reaction, it has to be said, isn’t positive.

It’s like a Cronenberg film about Brexit, internalised anger manifesting as mutating tumours, the New Flesh encountering Jacob Rees-Mogg and recoiling. ‘Pastoral’ is made up of slabs of industrial noise, face-punching rhythms, buried melody, haunting imagery and, essentially, rage. It’s a radical operatic essay on political nausea. It’s an astonishing piece of work.

There are clues in the sleeve art, a glitched-out pastiche of a Deutsche Grammophon classical release. A lush green landscape of trees and riverbank is punctuated by a sinister looking figure in red, some kind of mutant Harlequin; an Adidas morris dancer in a baseball cap, face covered with a red mask.

That’s Elizabeth Bernholz’s new look, a garish statement which suggests an urban ‘Wicker Man’ narrative, a jarring 21st century comment on contemporary England using the visual reptile-brain triggers of Ye Verye Fuckinge Olde Englande to do so; a Shakespearean Primark fool for a senile king. To drive the point home, for the crazed recorder and chant drill of ‘Dance Of The Peddlers’ she rips a bit of William Blake – you know the one, “Tyger, tyger burning bright” etc, though the line Bernholz fixes on is “Did he who made the lamb make thee?”. Is the vicious killer really made of the same stuff as the innocent new born?

‘Jerusalem’, in which the terrifying swazzle voice of Punch cackles away with enough malevolence to make the blood run cold, references Blake again, as well as the poisonous English dream of an imagined glorious past. Blake and his early 19th century ‘Jerusalem’ sentiments supply the Viagra to the public school right-wing Brexit bullies in England, who bellow Blake’s lyric with the same gusto of a football ultra segueing from “Come on you Reds!” (the chant floats across the tribal jerking of ‘Hobby Horse’) to “You’re going to get your fucking heads kicked in!”.

Gazelle Twin seems to be summoning some kind of sonic witchcraft to hex the lot of them, and these echoes of a witchy English wyrdness enrich an album that positively pulses with anger.

“Much better in my day”, repeats the frantic voice in ‘Better In My Day’ over a brutal drum machine as it sets about its enemy with unconcealed contempt for the amnesiac generation of finger-waggers who like to comment on popular daily newspaper websites. “The streets were safe back then”, burps the voice, surrounded by starbursts of toxic noise. It would be funny if the reality of it wasn’t so utterly depressing.

That monster of a voice is also on ‘Dieu Et Mon Droit’, which sees Gazelle Twin channeling Kate Bush’s soprano. It doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine Kate Bush (circa ‘The Dreaming’) making an album like this, if she had connected to punk instead of Emily Brontë and used her Fairlight to make everyone’s ears bleed. Although the lyric “trickling down like shit into the sewer” isn’t one you can picture coming from the Kate Bush pen, they share an approach to production, one where they are able to conjure from the studio sets of sounds and juxtapositions you haven’t quite heard before. It’s like a commitment to working towards something they can see and hear in their heads, which could well result in public humiliation.

So when Bernholz sings, “I sit on the throne”, in ‘Throne’, her voice is treated again to extremes, this time sounding like a cracking croak of an ancient ruler, perhaps the throne in the question is the lav. Bush wouldn’t sing about taking a shit, metaphorical or otherwise. Certainly, it goes on to talk about pus, and stink. It’s fetid stuff, possibly not ideal for dinner parties.

‘Old Thorn’ repeats patterns which suggest the rhythmic play of Philip Glass and the sound mangling of her Aphex namesake, while ‘Mongrel’ revisits the opening cry of “What species is this? What century?” from ‘Folly’, the flow of invective distilled by ghosts in the machines, at one point sounding like it’s sampled ‘Ghosts’ by Japan.

It all ends abruptly with the 40 seconds of ‘Over The Hills’, a folk voice emerges from the mire singing “over the hills and far away…”, suggesting this where Gazelle Twin would like to be heading. Wait! Elizabeth! We’re coming with you!

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