The EU Referendum, and its noxious aftermath, is STILL the big news of the day, as the countdown to the UK’s exit from the EU continues, people of all political persuasions (and even those who swear non-allegiance) in conversation about it all. What a Pandora’s box! While it could be argued that tensions were always simmering beneath the surface of the supposedly liberal, tolerant, and welcoming British veneer, they were just that. Since then, tensions have been ratcheted up, perhaps close to the point of boiling over, which is what some are predicting in the not-too-distant future, largely dependent upon whether or not a ‘deal’ is struck between the EU and the UK, and how that situation ends up exasperating the current austere socio-economic landscape.
On the surface, Elizabeth Bernholz is a (possibly) mild-mannered everyday mum, of a very young child, now based in rural Leicestershire. However, she has a secret existence (well, to those who don’t follow the alternative new music scenes), an alter ego: Gazelle Twin. What a ferocious and angry beast this is. It’s taken a good look around her immediate environs, and doesn’t like what it sees. It’s been amplified by her recent experiences of being both pregnant and a new mother, experiences that typically involve heightened sensitivities. As Bernholz has said recently, “There have been times… where I have been really disturbed by very present, repetitive, nightmarish thoughts brought on by motherhood. They form a kind of hyper-aware protective shell which is to do with the vulnerability created by having a kid, how you fear for them, now and in the future, on a micro and macro level. And when you couple that with the bombardment of awful things happening day after day after day, there’s bound to be a very confused energy surrounding the project.”
Told through a combination of manipulated multi-gender voices, with ideas and sounds of traditional folk transplanted into the modern age of hard electronica, Gazelle Twin presents the notion on Pastoral that, “There is horror in every idyll, and danger lurking beyond the ‘quaint’.”
“What species is this? / What century? / What atmosphere? / What government?” she asks on lead track ‘Folly’ via backwards electronics, with combinations of operatic and computerised vocals. It’s the start of a fearsome artistic journey into the heart of darkness, an apocalyptic vision of a country teetering on the edge of fascism, of a physical and psychological violence that has some people yearning, and believing in a misplaced idyllic (hence the old school folk allusions) that never was. On ‘Better in My Day’, an incessant, and hard industrial techno beat, allied with repeating refrain: “Much better in my day / No locked doors / No foreigners / Just look at these kids now / Boys were boys! / Girls were girls!”.
Quiet tearoom chat, hallucinogenic call centres, scaremongering tabloids, thuggish St. George’s menace, allegiance to a ‘divine’ monarchy, poverty, and outright xenophobia march through Bernholz’s scary musical landscape. Yet, while the sentiments are often nasty, there’s a great deal of inventiveness and thoughtfulness on Pastoral.
It’s a work that mixes outright aggression, moodiness and paranoia, the overall effect being one of tension, and release. There’s a latent violence brewing in Great Britain, and according to Gazelle Twin, it’s very nasty, a sulphuric plume of controlled anger and vitriol.
Confused, maybe. Absurd, possibly. Yet, Pastoral doesn’t sound unsure of itself, nor in the mood to give benefit of the doubt. It is her reflection of what goes in the hidden corners, expressed through an often vitriolic press: “Stick it to the man / Or wave those flags”, she ‘sings’ on the visceral tribal techno of ‘Little Lambs’. Behind the facade of a pastoral, gentle landscape lurks modern day folk devils and Gazelle Twin is not afraid of pointing them out.