Live Music + Gig Reviews

Gazelle Twin @ Electrowerkz, London

1 September 2011

Gazelle Twin originator Elizabeth Walling is a lady from Brighton, but tonight matters of gender and geography are superfluous. Amid the industrial setting of Electrowerkz she may as well be an interplanetary being of indeterminate gender, equal parts Fever Ray, Diva Plavalaguna and actual stardust. From inside her elaborate blue headdress little more than a shapely mouth can be discerned; it’s an orifice for expressing sounds that are in turn passed through vocoders and become, at times, something neither male nor female, sometimes not necessarily human, if not quite xenomorph either.

Her outfit otherwise does its best, with creases and folds, to hide any suggestion of a human female form, yet as she turns to face the back wall and kneels between Gazelle Twin’s eerie songs from mesmerising debut album The Entire City she could be a future space nun, helping to heal the injured caught up in some interstellar war. Her shipmates’ fashions are scarcely less arresting. Synth controllers appear clad in chainmail-patterned headdresses and LED finger lights, quite the co-pilots on a spacecraft, while in the centre two drummers are dressed in black, adjacent one to the other, with glowing lights on top of their heads creating the impression of third eyes and continuing the symmetry of the stage set-up. In front, two dancer-ushers sport identity-obscuring fencing masks. They might be extras from Emperor Ming’s space cruiser.

So far, so visual. When The Knife began playing live, their concept of visuals, and the budget to cope, was fully in place. In contrast Gazelle Twin’s vision, while potentially as limitless, currently has few of the visual enhancements that come with such spending. Instead Walling is reliant on studied movements and those DIY-accessorised costumes; they’re striking, they signpost art with a capital A, but they also suggest that we’re only at the start of Gazelle Twin’s journey into the unknown.

Walling readily admits to being a fan of Karin Dreijer Andersson, and – like Austra – she can expect comparisons by anyone discussing her music or live show. But beyond that, Walling’s classical training shimmers just out of focus, operatic touches in both her voice and her poise rooting the stylistics in solid understanding of what works in music. While other ladies race to strip off their clothes for an audience at least as obsessed by their celebrity lifestyles as their music, Walling controls how her work is perceived; arty, necessarily a little indulgent, and all about the feelings music can bring about when it’s done well. While obscuring human voice and form, Gazelle Twin create a captivating thought-space in which the abnormal and the unique can take flight.

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