Arriving at the venue we are greeted by attendants in costume, faces hidden behind modified fencing masks, fingertips lit by blue bulbs, we’re guided to a room filled with dark sepulchral tones. The foreboding atmosphere that is the beating heart of Gazelle Twin’s debut album The Entire City in full effect.
Gazelle Twin (aka Kate Walling) stands on the stage, with her back to the audience, draped in flowing blue robes, skin painted a dark indigo. She rocks back and forward gently. In an eerie symmetry she is flanked by two solemn musicians dressed in what appears to be chain mail behind a bank of keys and electronics. Two drummers, in black from head to toe their eyes barely on show motionless behind their kits.
A strident note is held on the keys, the drums thud slowly, reminiscent of an oath taking ceremony for new members of a sinister secret society or cult. Gazelle Twin turning to face the audience revealing an elaborate hooded cape that mostly obscuring her face.
I am Shell I am Bone unfurls from the stage across the audience, we are treated to clattering drums, spiking synths. Gazelle Twin imbues each word with a longing, deeper than simple romantic longing. The emotions here feel somehow more fundamental, more elemental, ancient. References to “concrete,” “bone” and “iron” abound.
The stripped back and intensely minimal sound of the record is beefed up here, rhythms more prominent and melodies pushed alongside the vocals. The focal points remains Gazelle Twin’s vocals drift majestically across the compositions.
The atmosphere is heavy, moody with two drummers really contributing to the sense of the ominous. The keys heave up from the depths of whichever dark recess of the subconscious we’re being led toward, but like the shards of light that break through storm clouds momentarily, she intones “she’ll teach me love,” it resolves in to beautiful sadness.
There spell is broken a little as some of the more disharmonious and ‘dirgey’ tracks are played, with stabbing atonal synths jerking me from the previous wonder. At first this feels a misstep but on reflection a persona and aesthetic that trades in unsettling and immersing your audience in an ‘unpleasant’ world it is actually quite important to sometimes, actually unsettle.
Soon enough though we find ourselves submerged again the drums pound you with the physicality of the experience, rumbling through the crowd, vibrating in your chest cavity. One of Gazelle Twin’s strengths is her ability to take her audience to uncomfortable places and then return you to the more ‘up-tempo’ (although no less haunting) songs. When she sings of entering in to someone’s “open arms, open arms” it is hard to know whether this is longing or loving, and that is what makes her so compelling, where some play at darkness she embodies a beautiful gloom and melancholia.
There is currently, among musicians of a certain ilk, a trend for the bleak, the dark and dystopian sounds (think of that post-dubstep subset of the sub-Burial kind), but unlike those morbid young men, inside Gazelle Twin’s music is a beating heart than, even if it may be broken.
The Entire City is available from Anti-Ghost Moonray Records
This post originally appeared on The What Where When on 3 September 2011