It has been a difficult year for me and my music tastes. I find myself listening to something, getting completely absorbed by it to almost obsessive levels and somehow missing out on lots of stuff. I was pondering my best of 2014 and in recent years I’ve struggled to whittle the list down to 10. At the moment I’ve got 4 on that list. It may be difficult to get my head down to the rest of it, but Gazelle Twin’s ‘Unflesh’ was an easy contender from the first moment I heard it.
I’ve always had a deep fascination with women who perform difficult, emotionally searing music; from plaintive torch songs through to brutal noise and power electronics. There is little representation in power electronics from a female perspective as I have spoken about at length, and any women who do (in my personal experience) have mostly played a very male role with their music. It’s angry and abrasive but almost in an outright attack on the world at large, nothing especially personal and it’s the personal, almost internalised pain that women can perform and write about so well and usually in a way that drops gender, or works in a fluid way. Working as a character also helps with exploring places you may not go as yourself as well, and this is where Gazelle Twin comes in to their own (I choose to use genderless pronouns here).
‘Unflesh’ explores some very difficult territory; there are themes around suicide, puberty, illness, death….the human condition as a whole, and the use of breathing as a sound makes it feel like the music is a body of it’s very own. Starting with the title track, ‘Unflesh’ has a weird anxiety ridden feel to it due to the use of breathing loops, screams and the repeated use of the words ‘it’s coming at me, coming at me, coming at me’. Having suffered anxiety attacks myself, there is a weird sense of familiarity with the track as well.
Having read about Gazelle Twin elsewhere, I can see why others see elements of The Knife in Gazelle Twin’s music, but I also hear elements of Dorian Concept (especially so in ‘Exorcise’) and PJ Harvey. I found it strange when I went out to buy a physical copy of the album why I found it in the dance music section, but there are so many facets to the album I can understand the difficulty in attempting to categorise it.
‘Anti Body’, ‘Child’ and ‘Premonition’ are particularly emotionally affecting. There is something other worldly about the tracks, and with such personal lyrical content that it gets you at a level you weren’t expecting; ‘Child’ certainly opened the floodgates for me the first time I heard it. ‘Belly of the Beast’ was the track that got me in to the album at first – it was so immediate, and I love heavily rhythmic music, and there is a certain level of menace to the lyrics as well. It’s visceral and agitated but in a measured way – like you’re not sure when something is likely to snap.
The rest of ‘Unflesh’ gets in to a strange, deeply personal space (like the journey up to here wasn’t enough!) but it almost starts to feel like the music is affecting you physically – particularly so if you have this on headphones so you can pick up on every nuance, ‘Still Life’ is utterly filled with a fear that makes you sit still at the end wondering what you’ve just listened to – almost propels you back in to a physical space, and as the rest of the album is a focus on physical conditions it seems like a good finishing point. Yet whilst others reflect on Gazelle Twin’s relation to other artists, there is nothing else like this for me – it’s an emotional rollercoaster that takes you in so many directions in such a short space of time (38 minutes) and listening to the album as a whole feels like a richly rewarding experience when you come back down from it. This is an absolutely stunning album and I only wish I’d gotten into it sooner so I could have experienced this live a little over a month ago at Corsica Studios. Will be added to my live wish list for next year that’s for sure.