Gazelle Twin is a moniker for independent artist, Elizabeth Bernholz, whose musical output takes an unconventional approach to production and live performance, featuring changing personas, themes and multiple genres. Bernholz released latest album Pastoral this summer, and her new tracks overflow with a frenzy of traditional and contemporary musical tropes. In this singular release, early music instrumentation – the harpsichord and the humble recorder, fed through myriad electronics – and the compelling, ritualistic application of found sample-looping are ingeniously combined.
On December 9th, Bernholz and drone choir NYX come together to create an otherworldly electronic chorus, expanding time and space. Together, NYX and Gazelle Twin will channel the dizzying anxiety of post-truth Britain, in a distorted dreamscape of whispers and operatic dissonance.
Ahead of this exhilarating live performance we sat down with Gazelle Twin to talk about her latest album’s critique of conservatism, embracing quasi-anonymity, and deriving her performance name from an Internet anagram creator.
Where does the name Gazelle Twin come from?
Nothing fancy at all – it came from a web-based anagram creator using my former name, and I liked what it threw up.
Could you talk us through your on-stage persona – in particular the origins of the jester-like costume you perform in?
When creating costumes for my live performance and press photos for a new album, I often put things through a “pagan” filter. I start off with a rough sketch of what I want to convey in the costume, and then try to think about how I can mix it up with ancient and new so it feels uncanny but relevant. In this case I was thinking about football hooligans, the St George’s flag, Morris dancers, jesters, the tradition of commedia dell’arte, and folkloric demons. I wanted to create a figure that could represent multiple identities, including the cliche characters from contemporary and historic British culture, specifically with the awareness of class prejudice in mind.
Your trademark costume also obscures your face – why have you chosen to embrace quasi-anonymity?
If we remove the face then we open up endless possibilities to convey something beyond a person’s identity. My everyday identity is not something I like to be distracted by, I like to be immersed into other worlds, characters, or other entities in order to get the themes and messages on my music across more powerfully. Masks transform the person wearing them as well as the person observing them.
Your latest album Pastoral sees you examine rural England’s link with nationalism and conservatism, would you care to talk more about the release and the themes it brings up?
The album started off on a more personal level to do with identity, lifestyle and living in a contemporary age of capitalism, but it turned quite sharply when I moved to countryside, had a child, and then felt the impact of all the political changes happening in the UK and across Europe, and the USA. All of these very extreme and radical changes in my personal life and the world around me made me think more about my identity as an English, white, middle-class woman. I wanted to address all of these aspects – which each have a political context – thinking about the origins of my county’s history, what it represents to the rest of the world, and how we have arrived at where we are today. It isn’t a conclusive record, but trying to make sense of all the madness.
In terms of musicality, Pastoral sees you feed early instrumentation like the harpsichord through electronics, whilst also experimenting with contemporary forms of sample-looping. What are you exploring with these musical choices?
The instrumentation and production choices all feed into the same theme deconstructing English, British, European history and its traditions. Music is a large part of that of course; in the U.K. we have a folk music tradition that I wanted to utilise as it’s often bound up with politics as well as everyday life. I was also thinking about music for religious purposes, music of the royal courts, music made in the post-war eras as laments or as morale boosting exercises… all of this was in my mind whilst creating the album.
You’re collaborating with drone choir NYX – what attracted you to this project? Could you discuss more about this project?
Choral music has always been one of my great musical loves and I have spent most of my life trying to recreate my own choir using my own voice! The chance to do this properly for once was a bit of a dream come true, and the fact that it is combining two of my favourite things: choral voices and electronics – is extremely exciting. We are reworking songs from ‘Pastoral’, beautifully arranged by the amazing Sian O’Gorman. The performance will be completely different to my usual pastoral live shows, but just as intense!
For more information and to book your tickets for NYX: electronic drone choir with Gazelle Twin on 9th December, click here.