Gazelle Twin: Pastoral
Gazelle Twin's 2014 Unflesh was in my reckoning the second-best album of the year. It was an absolute masterpiece of female angst, with Elizabeth Bernholz bristling in industrial rage at the trials of womanhood in a society indifferent to women. With Pastoral, Benholz has gone from an interior album to an exterior album, and in that exteriority somehow managed to top the last record in every way. Rather than be concerned with the Self like Unflesh, Pastoral is a societal record; like Gnod's The Mirror it's a lament of what has become of England in the last four years, though also like The Mirror the concepts that Bernholz suggests could be used for any number of nations currently flirting with right-wing authoritarianism. The music is at once more martial and more manic than Unflesh, with mostly short pieces flowing into each other to become a quilt of confusion and resentment about the state of the nation. This makes Pastoral feel more like a single piece, a throbbing experimental rumination on the nature of power that surges in martial time with vicious washes of industrial sounds. Pastoral is a triumph of statement, a work of art that drills its way into your mind and takes control. Anyone who thinks that 'industrial' as a genre died in the early 2000s owes it to themselves to see Gazelle Twin take the basic building blocks and turn it into something necessary and immediate. What a work of genius.
Daniel Bachman: The Morning Star
I had never heard of Daniel Bachman before he was suggested to me by a friend during a discussion about John Fahey. Figuring I could use a new American Primitive folk record, I picked up The Morning Star, his most recent release. About halfway into the clattering, elliptical, 18-minute opener 'Invocation' I realized that this record was not the Fahey that I, or my friend, had anticipated. While Bachman's prior albums were generally more traditional, if incredibly virtuosic, guitar ruminations, The Morning Star shows the young prodigy already pushing against the seams of the genre to create something ruthlessly experimental. His guitar is found only in the background of 'Invocation' and it's only the achingly gorgeous mid-album suite "Song for the Setting Sun III" and "IV" and most of the closing piece where it takes the center stage in the way that his earlier records did. Elsewhere, Bachman uses drones, field-recording samples, and Neubauten-esque sheet metal gamelan to create harsh, dissonant soundscapes that accompany his playing. His technique is undeniable, and the fact that he's an absolute prodigy is borne out by his earlier work as well, but The Morning Star is an incredible example of someone who has taken their technique as far as it can go branching out into something wholly new. If this is the start of Daniel Bachman as a difficult modern composer, I look forward to his records for years to come.