Music

'Pastoral' Sees Gazelle Twin Perform a Sardonic Reconfiguration of Avant-pop

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

With Pastoral, Gazelle Twin's Elizabeth Bernholz steps away from the urban influences of Unflesh and re-interprets electronic music through an early music/folk lens with Pastoral.

Pastoral
Gazelle Twin

Anti-Ghost Moon Ray

21 September 2018

There is no doubt that costumes and theatrics play a significant role in molding the identity of an artist. These can be traced to the initial theatrics of Alice Cooper, the notorious presentations of the Residents, the make-up of the glam rock scene or the infamous corpse paint of the black metal scene. Elizabeth Bernholz, the composer, producer, and musician behind Gazelle Twin conceived her project while witnessing Fever Ray's performance at the 2009 Loop Festival. Fever Ray and its predecessor the Knife were one of the acts to take this style of presentation to the next level, and Gazelle Twin now further the possibilities of this legacy.

Bernholz finds the use of costumes to be something powerful and liberating, allowing one to shed one's identity. That can be true of the persona that presents the music, as well as for the music itself in the case of Gazelle Twin. And so the style of Gazelle Twin displays a certain fluidity, one that evolves through an art-pop core and navigates avant-garde motifs through electronic and industrial influences. It is an impressive sound that was first unleashed in its proto form with The Entire City. The debut record laid down the foundations of Gazelle Twin in a mold made of darkwave aesthetics and ambient notions, but it was Unflesh that saw the experimental outlook of the project fully realized.

Now, Gazelle Twin return with Pastoral and begin to investigate a new scenery. While Unflesh possessed a distinctly urban sound, with notions of industrial and noise elements used as building blocks for the record, Pastoral instead takes a stroll to a psychedelic vision of the countryside. This change comes naturally to Bernholz, who recently moved away from the city, and features an array of intriguing elements that expand the already extravagant sound of Gazelle Twin.

The biggest switch is the inclusion of early music and folk elements which become focal points of Pastoral, affecting both the instrumentation of the record and also its structures. The lead flute in "Better in My Day" is one of the first introductions to this motif, with its harsh sound arriving and adding to the twisted sense of the track. Similar are some of the ideas in the otherworldly "Mongrel", while the more minimal route undertaken in "Dance of the Peddlers" sees the vocal delivery truly shine within these structures. The uncanny attribute about the expanded instrumentation is the manner in which these elements coalesce with the main instead theme of Gazelle Twin, managing to coexist in the same space but also radiating with this alien and slightly twisted sense.

At the same time, the earthy quality of the early music element raises a ritualistic ambiance. The majestic "Glory" is such a moment, with Bernholz using minimal means and her impressive vocal delivery, augmented with background choral singing, to build a monumental track. This stripped down idea carries on with "Tea Rooms", albeit in a less majestic and more esoteric manner. At the same time, the repetitive scope of electronic music adds a strange sense to the ritualistic attributes of Pastoral. The industrial-esque progression of "Little Lambs" is such a moment, as Gazelle Twin breathe into the track a tribalistic aura that drastically alters the soundscapes. "Hobby Horse" is another instance when this notion appears, adding on a sickeningly playful tone with a harsh and yet charming sense. It is also the moment when Gazelle Twin moves further into the territory of Fever Ray and the Knife, crafting an ominous tonality for their intoxicating electropop structures with a slightly dystopian sense.

Pastoral is a bizarre album in the most positive way, and its amalgamation of traditional musical concepts within this futuristic pop structure is what makes it so enticing. It is all highlighted brilliantly in the cover of this work, with the serene background being invaded by this out of place time traveling jester. The placement of this strange creature alters the perception of the whole piece, and it mirrors the manner in which Bernholz has structured her work. While starting from a known point of origin, in this case, the folk-ish tones and the standard electronic practices, Gazelle Twin diverges in order to produce something much more daring. In this process, it feels like there is a certain playfulness that comes into the fold, something also highlighted by the jester figure.

However, through the record, it feels as if Bernholz is having an almost sardonic manner in which she unfolds her concepts and ideas, be it the adventurous progressions or the lyrical themes that deal with the idea of identity and reality. There is this running theme throughout her work, which is also prevalent in Pastoral, that echoes through the lines: "What century is this?", "What species is this" and "Who is this?". All these questions add to the mystique of the record and create the wondrous hallucinatory result that is Pastoral.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.