GAZELLE TWIN + NINA KOHOUT – ATTENBOROUGH CENTRE FOR THE CREATIVE ARTS (ACCA) – BRIGHTON 24.11.23
Thankfully we in Brighton are beneficiaries of a truly buoyant music scene, with always something happening somewhere or other. As quite often happens, these music concerts are scheduled on the same night and this evening is no different. Do I personally go and see Bob Vylan, Kid Bookie, Panic Shack at Chalk? Probably not as I reviewed Bob Vylan a year ago, and I saw Panic Shack in the summer at ‘Latitude’ festival and we covered Kid Bookie in 2020, so I will let a colleague go along to this and review it. What about Enola Gay with Yinyang and Yard at the Green Door Store? Nope, seen Enola Gay twice over the past couple of years, so another colleague can enjoy this one. Plus my friend Paris Alexander is supporting The Devout at the Concorde 2, but this evening’s concert that won hands down for me this time around was to reacquaint myself with Gazelle Twin aka Canterbury born composer, producer, singer, and visual artist Elizabeth Bernholz, who I hadn’t seen live since she supported former Ultravox! frontman John Foxx at The Haunt was back on 24th February 2012. All I can recall from Gazelle Twin’s performance that night was that the dry ice machine was on overload and although she was performing immediately in front of me I could barely see her, plus the fact that she was wearing all black and had her face behind a veil.
It’s strange to realise that although Gazelle Twin was based in Brighton for a dozen years, The Haunt concert was my only previous encounter. I have actually seen her husband Jez perform live on a couple of occasions though. The first being on 10th June 2017 as support to Heaven 17 at Concorde 2, and then again a year later on 15th November 2018 as support to Blancmange at The Old Market.
And so I find myself back at the rather wonderful Attenborough Centre For The Creative Arts or ACCA for short, which is located on the campus of the University of Sussex, which is exactly where Elizabeth Bernholz studied music and graduated back in 2006. She has now become an ambassador for women in music production and an alumnus of the University of Sussex. She is the inspiration behind the Gazelle Twin Scholarship for Women in Music Technology. She has come full circle and tonight is performing live at ACCA as one of only a trio of UK concert dates, with the other two having taken place on 10th November at London, Bush Hall and on 16th November at Newcastle, Sage 2. She is here to promote her latest album ‘Black Dog’ which came out on 27th October on Invada Records.
Elizabeth conceived the Gazelle Twin project when she watched Fever Ray perform at the 2009 Loop Festival and she noted how the show reminded her how powerful and liberating costume is, and thus became interested in the power of disguise, hence her 2012 performance at The Haunt. The debut Gazelle Twin album, ‘The Entire City’, was released in July 2011 to critical acclaim. Her second album, ‘Unflesh’ came out in 2014 to further critical praise. In 2018, her third studio album, ‘Pastoral’, was dropped and its main inspirations were rural life and Brexit. It impressively ranked at No.1 on The Quietus’ “Top 100 Albums of 2018” list. 2021 saw the release of her collaboration ‘Deep England’ album with NYX who are an electronic drone choir and otherworldly electric chorus, re-embodying live electronics and extended vocal techniques. Bringing us up to date, we have ‘Black Dog’, which has been recorded over a period of five years and the reason we are here this evening.
Gazelle Twin is here in order to showcase the new long-player in its entirety but not in the correct running order. The keyboard, guitar and other stage instruments used for the support artists set were cleared away, with the exception of the Japanese Fostex Reel to Reel Tape Recorder with its two Sony reels, which remained stage left (our right). A single red comfy lounge chair was added stage right (our left) and next to that was a tall lampshade. At this point there was also a single microphone on a lead (not a stand) and on the floor in front of that were two sleek foot pedals. There were two other further foot pedals nearer the centre front of the stage along with another standless mic, which were sitting on the central carpet. A third standless mic was accompanying the reel to reel. At 9:08pm ACCA was plunged into darkness and a backing film started which was projected onto the rear wall. The electronic sounds commenced at the same time. It was unclear as to exactly where these were emanating from. Four minutes later, a single svelte ghostlike body appeared in the near blackness from our left hand side. Gazelle Twin had arrived!
Everything coming at us from the stage had an otherworldliness spiritual dreamstate appearance, Gazelle Twin was barely visible through the dry ice and bare minimum lighting. The mood was well and truly set as the sub 2 minute ‘Sweet Dream’ instrumental played out leading into the disturbing nightmarish ‘I Disappear’ which included the haunting lyrics of “I disappear; I disappear; I disappear in the night; Swallow begins its flight”. The standing figure of Gazelle Twin takes to the chair as the pounding electronic beats of album title track ‘Black Dog’ ring out. “Tell you this dream I had” she sings from her seat with her dark hair swept back off of her face and the single light from under the lampshade is shining down across half of her face as if summoning up the dead spirits for a séance from a horror film. This clearly wasn’t going to be your normal musical delivery but something far more theatrical.
No instruments were physically played during the performance as such, but the sounds were often controlled by Gazelle Twins bare feet as she elegantly tapped the required foot pedals around the floor. Dressed in a teal coloured suit and gently and slowly moving around the stage, this reminded me of the slower parts of the Christine And The Queens Glastonbury performance I had watched on iPlayer a few months ago.
Rising from the chair and extinguishing the single light, GT is now solely lit by the film to the rear as the thudding film score plays out. ‘Two Worlds’ is upon us with the use of two mics, one normal voice and one echo voice and she is more animated during this track. The quality of the sound throughout the set is absolutely perfect and the performance benefits from it. It was briefly back to the chair and then over to the other side of the stage to start the reel to reel machine. The Grimes-esque ‘Art Angels’ period-sounding ‘Fear Keeps Us Alive’ is the next selection, followed by the more relaxing but off-kilter film score-esque ‘This House’. The shortest tune from ‘Black Dog’ is upon us, this being the 28 second ‘The Long Room’ which is extended to almost two and a half minutes. From the shortest tune to the longest tune, in the form of the only non ‘Black Dog’ album tune of the night the darkly beautiful ‘Phobia Tape Loop’ which comes in at not far short of ten minutes.
‘Walk Through Walls’ is the next choice of composition with its “I reappear; I reappear; I walk through walls” opening vocal delivery and a single white light from the ceiling beaming down on her as if waiting to be lifted up into a UFO. This music somewhat reminded me of Gary Numan’s recent work with wailing North African/Middle Eastern female vocals set atop industrial sounding keyboards. The comparison is valid, especially as GT appeared on stage with Numan at his 7th May 2022 Wembley Arena concert.
GT returned to her comfy seat to deliver ‘Author Of You’ with its bass sounds hitting me right in the chest, which was impressive and the set highlight for me. “Cracked head; Can you see; Black dog (black dog); Comes from me; Who am I; Who’s melody; I don’t know” she sings as my breastplate gets battered. The main set is completed with the album closing number, the quiet haunting piano work of ‘A Door Opens’. Strangely her vocal delivery on this reminded me (dare I say) of Barbra Streisand circa 1976 ‘A Star Is Born’ era. The house lights were up for this tune and the dry ice flowed. At 9:55pm GT vacated the stage and the seated crowd burst into applause and whoops. A return to the stage was called for and we were given the only as yet unplayed tune from ‘Black Dog’, this being ‘Unstoppable Force’, with its train on tracks running beat or possibly the sound of machines during the Industrial Revolution with its repeated “Push me, push me, push me, push me; Push me, push me, push me, go on” lyrics. GT adopted many jerk laden poses throughout this final number and at 10:01pm the performance art presentation had concluded. The audience weren’t acknowledged or addressed on any occasion during the 53 minutes that GT was with us. We didn’t need to be as that would have spoiled the illusion of entering her own world. This had been a truly absorbing performance and the punters absolutely loved it.
Gazelle Twin’s work can be located on Bandcamp.
Gazelle Twin setlist:
‘Fear Keeps Us Alive’
‘The Long Room (extended version)’
‘Phobia Tape Loop’
‘Walk Through Walls’
‘Author Of You’
‘A Door Opens’
Support this evening came in the form of Nina Kohout who is a solo artist in her early twenties. She was born in Slovakia but is now UK based. In fact I strongly suspect that she is indeed Brighton based on the account of her May 2023 single ‘Little Butterfly’ being recorded here at the University Of Sussex, plus the fact that she is the current recipient of the Gazelle Twin Scholarship for Women in Music Technology, available to a woman, trans or non-binary applicant taking up a place on a Music or Music Technology BA at the University of Sussex.
Nina dropped her debut single, ‘Blue Sunray’ back in February 2020 and was the recipient of the Radio_Head award for the “Newcomer of the Year 2020” which was curated by Slovak national radio. She released her debut EP, titled ‘Pandemonium’ in February 2022. Both of these releases featured her father Peter Kohout on bass clarinet, a rarely used hybrid style instrument which is straight-bodied with a small upturned silver-coloured metal bell and curved metal neck. This evening Nina is joined on stage by her father who is accompanied by said instrument as well as an ordinary clarinet. Tonight is a memorable night for the daughter-dad pairing as this is the very first time they have played together in the UK. In fact, dad who has been in three Slovak bands Bez ladu a skladu, CHVM, The Autumnist, had hot-footed over from Slovakia to perform for us tonight.
Their eight song set commenced at 8:03pm and ran until 8:39pm. A star filled backdrop with her name on it was projected onto the rear of the stage throughout the set. Nina was dressed in black which highlighted her flowing locks. She was on vocals and utilised a Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 keyboard, as well as a laptop and also guitar. Her opening number was an haunting unreleased vocal layered composition which was titled as ‘EMA’ on her setlist. After which we had the first of the tunes from her EP in the form of ‘Moonlight’, which certainly showed off her vocal capabilities and would be an ideal candidate for use in a former Eastern Bloc spy movie.
Selection three was the aforementioned debut release ‘Blue Sunray’, which is a haunting folklore melody penned about her elder sister getting pregnant and moving out of the family home. As with Gazelle Twin’s set, the sound for Nina’s performance was absolutely crisp and clear and the lads at the back at the mixing desks did a very fine job indeed, so well done to the two Dan’s and their other chums. The dark electronica continued with the title track from the ‘Pandemonium’ EP, which half way through became louder than those that had gone before. The EP opener ‘Love Above’ was up next and Nina informed us this was about “love, hope and pain” and added “with a happy ending”. For this track Nina reverted to the keys, having been on guitar for a few tunes. There was effective use of vocal loops in this composition and it was evident that Nina was feeling every word of this tune. Once again, this track should really be used in a film and was my favourite song thus far.
Selection six was the single from earlier this year titled ‘Little Butterfly’ which we are told is about “people who don’t understand what no means”. The number benefitted from the juxtaposition of soothing ethereal vocals against a booming industrial drum backbeat and reminded me of Björk’s epic ‘Play Dead’ infused with the best bits of Kate Bush. This song without doubt was the highlight of the set for me and not only was worth coming out tonight just to hear this, but controversially I’m going to add that it was the most enjoyable composition of the whole evening!
The penultimate tune of the set is the only song that Nina has written in her native tongue, this being the two minute ditty titled ‘Prebúdzanka’ (‘Wake Up Girl’), which we are informed is “the opposite of a lullaby”. The backing vocals reminded me of Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’ with added birdsong and Peter’s clarinet workmanship was much appreciated. The duo bowed out with Nina’s latest composition ‘Song Of An Unborn Mother’ which only came out 9 days ago. Nina tells us that she wrote it for her future child, and thus it’s not surprising to hear the tenderness of a music box style sound at the start, which then morphs into a French cafe vibe. On conclusion, the duo received a well deserved loud applause from the raised seated audience.
You can catch Nina performing live at The Hope & Ruin on Wednesday 24th January as one of the four acts on the ‘Hidden Herd Presents’ monthly new music showcase event. The other trio being Nukuluk, Polite Bureaux and Own World. I urge you to purchase your tickets HERE.
Nina Kohout – vocals, guitar, keys, laptop
Peter Kohout – bass clarinet, clarinet
Nina Kohout setlist:
‘Moonlight’ (from 2022 ‘Pandemonium’ EP)
‘Blue Sunray’ (a 2020 single)
‘Pandemonium’ (from 2022 ‘Pandemonium’ EP)
‘Love Above’ (from 2022 ‘Pandemonium’ EP)
‘Little Butterfly’ (a 2023 single)
‘Prebúdzanka’ (‘Wake Up Girl’) (from 2022 ‘Pandemonium’ EP)
‘Song Of An Unborn Mother’ (a 2023 single)