Gazelle Twin is a revelation. Occasionally something comes along that is genuinely so unusual, so different, that it takes on a quality all of its own. 'Black Dog' is certainly that. Gazelle Twin is composer, producer, singer, and visual artist Elizabeth Bernholz, whose performance and production credits include Gary Numan and encompass soundtrack credits for Film, TV, and Video games including The Walking Dead, The Virtues, Edgerunners (Netflix), Nocturne (Amazon/Blumhouse), The Power and Then You Run amongst others. She has also released three previous albums as Gazelle Twin. So she has the pedigree, but far from resting on her laurels, 'Black Dog' pushes the envelope further into the truly strange.
From the intoned title track that takes its inspiration from the books she reads to her children, its ominous musical undertow giving it a nightmarish and yet dream like quality, the thudding, pulsating rhythms, bass tones, and scrapes, overlaid by ghostly and glacial synth runs with half spoken, half whispered vocals woven and stitched into the fabric of each song so they are an integral part of the sound, stand in stark contrast to the loud and in your face vocal style of her contemporaries. There is a subtlety about every track, both unselfconsciously experimental, and unsettling in equal measure. Song structures are stretched and distorted, ripped almost painfully out of her, yet delicate and glass fragile. You won't find any verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight break going on here. The disconnected and disturbing quality of each track is reminiscent of a black and white Surrealist arthouse short, an aural Un Chien Andalou.
Unsettling and other worldly without relying on cliche, only Diamanda Galas comes close to Gazelle Twin in both drawing you in and scaring the hell out of you. Songs cut off abruptly, before spinning off into another dark corner. Almost orchestral sections dive abruptly into the abyss. Gazelle Twin herself sounds tortured yet ecstatic in equal measure, and for a Halloween release 'Black Dog' is perfectly timed. No Trick Or Treater would have come within a mile of your house if you had this playing. "I'm trapped between these two worlds and there is no respite" she pleads. Quite what goes on inside her head to generate these ideas, sounds and lyrics is quite worrying but she always appears in control of the inner demons she parades in front of you. Like a Medium she channels the voices inside herself, making them real and tangible, but not being consumed or immolated by them. "Push me" she whispers, but is actually doing a fine job of pushing herself beyond anything you and I could do, or would want to.
She appears afraid of being consumed and disappearing into her nightmares, but is determined to sing out from behind the mirror. You may feel I am being over dramatic here, but 'Black Dog' is without doubt a work of art as much as an album. Whether you are ready for it though is quite another matter.
Main Image, Gazelle Twin by Teri Varhol