NYX Collective Records
LP / CD / DL
Available 19th March 2021
Gazelle Twin (Elizabeth Bernholz) reworks her acclaimed 2018 album Pastoral with the NYX Electronic Drone Choir. Simon Tucker reviews.
This review wasn’t meant to take this shape. Until last week this was going to be a focus purely on the wonder and magic that Gazelle Twin and the all-female NYX Electronic Drone Choir have conjured on this reworking of Gazelle Twin’s incredible 2018 album Pastoral (a high entry on many an Album of the Year lists including our very own). This review was going to be about the artists involved have taken an already powerful statement and elevated it to something else entirely. Something beautiful yet unsettling. That was until this week…
Deep England is now something else. It is still mystical yet now it seems to reflect your very own rage. The original Pastoral was a wonderful dissection of a backwards looking Englishness following the Brexit vote and the refugee crisis. In my review of the album I stated that Gazelle Twin created “the single most definitive statement on the current state of the UK” and now with the NYX Drone Choir she has done it again for what is more powerful right now than the female voice? As institutions rally around their own to save their skin they trample on the backs of women holding vigils in memory of someone murdered by the hands of someone whose very job it is to protect them. In Wales a 16 year old girl was murdered by a man. Social media was awash with women speaking their truth about the harassment and abuse that they had suffered. Last year police took selfies with the body of a murdered woman..they have still to be charged.
Great art arrives exactly when it should. I dare you to try and listen to the recording of William Blake’s Jerusalem that is included here and not find it totally overwhelming. As the choir layer vocals over the top of each other sounding huge, sounding sad and electronics flow grind and snarl underneath Jerusalem becomes a mix of sarcastic and melancholic whilst the reworking of Paul Giovanni’s Fire Leap from his score to the 1973 folk-horror film The Wicker Man gets more and more malevolent as it develops with two recorders creating an hypnotic mantra before gradually the voices in the background ease closer to the forefront and the main lyrics play out like a demented children’s lullaby. If you ever got creeped out by “one two / Freddy’s coming for you” then you should maybe prepare yourself for this one.
One of the albums strongest moments comes with the reworking of Better In My Day which has naturally evolved from its original incarnation in to something far more aggressive and ultimately moving as the originals synth pulses and bass patterns have been replaced by the human voice so here you have a group of women using grunts and heavy breathing as percussive notes driving the song forward. Pure defiance as the “much better in my day” lyric that in its original form sounded like the repeated phrase of the aging racist now sounds sardonic and dripping in irony. Was it ever better? Will it ever get better? The same applies to Throne with the lyric “I sit on my throne / I gather your soul” now even more effective considering a certain institution that has been in the press a lot of late.
Gazelle Twin and NYX close the album in such a way that really showcases their message and convictions as artists because we as listeners are allowed moments of reflection thanks to the title track and the first half of closer Golden Dawn before they decide to do something extremely bold and literally disappear allowing minutes of silence to play out. A silence as potent as the visceral vocal performances that have gone before.
Deep England is a vital piece of contemporary art. It is a statement piece that may have been about one thing but has now become a piece of protest against something else. It is important that people do what we should all be doing right now and that is listening to what these women have to say about their lives and our current culture. Deep England may summon the memory of pagan rituals and ancient hymns but its message is current and essential. Take it with you wherever you go when you buy it and allow its narrative to frame your opinion on what you see around you. Deep England is angry, haunted and direct and so should you be.